This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
The #VaccineMandate is Already Causing Nurses to Quit
Dana Pico 9/14/2021 12:01 PM
By Julie Abbass | September 11, 2021
LOWVILLE — The maternity department at the Lewis County Health System is the first casualty of staffing challenges made worse by health care workers prioritizing remaining unvaccinated for COVID-19 over their jobs with the hospital.
Because of a number of vacant positions in the department already, the resignations of six staff members this week combined with the looming possibility that seven other unvaccinated people in maternity may follow suit made it clear to the Health System’s leadership that they needed to hit “pause” on services provided by that department.
“We are unable to safely staff the service after Sept. 24. The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital,” Chief Executive Officer Gerald R. Cayer said. “It is my hope that the (state) Department of Health will work with us in pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department.”
In addition to the maternity ward, there are five other departments whose services may be curtailed in some way if a significant number of staff members decide to leave their employment rather than be vaccinated for COVID-19.
The “pause” will begin on Sept. 25, two days before the final deadline for healthcare worker vaccination across the state for those who chose to continue their employment.
Mr. Cayer, who spoke at a news conference on Friday afternoon in the county board room, said 30 people have resigned from their health care roles since the vaccine was mandated on Aug. 23, 20 of whom worked in clinical positions like nurses, therapists and technicians, totalling 70% of the resignations so far.
There's more at the original, but, further down:
Regardless of that perspective, however, there are still 165 of the approximately 650 employees who are unvaccinated and have yet to declare their intention to stay or go. About 73% of this group provide clinical services, Mr. Cayer said in a separate interview.
In the nursing home at the health system, there has only been one resignation so far, but there are 48 people who have not yet taken action.
Doing the math, 165 unvaccinated employees out of 650 is fully a quarter of the staff, 25.38%. If 73% of the unvaccinated employees are clinicians, that's 120 of them.
The Associated Press version of the story stated:
Cayer said 30 people have resigned since the vaccine mandate was announced last month, most of whom held clinical positions like nurses, therapists and technicians. Thirty others have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, he said.
That's a small sample size, but if thirty have quit and thirty have knuckled under -- an expression I believe appropriate, given that they had plenty of time to be vaccinated earlier, and thus the delay in doing so seems indicative of a determined reluctance -- that works out to a 50% compliance rate.
Hospitals can try moving staff around, and the article noted that there were some nurses who were currently in administrative positions rather than in direct patient care, but eventually this is going to have a real impact on patient care.
I have said it before: I believe that, potential side effects not withstanding, it is wiser to choose to take the vaccines than not. But I also believe that the decision to take, or not take, the vaccines, ought to be the free choice of every individual.
More, I have to wonder: among those who did not want to be vaccinated, but felt that they had to knuckle under to keep their jobs, how will their employee morale be after this? Will they do their jobs as well after having been forced to comply as they did previously? Will their loyalty to their employers suffer as a result?
No one I have seen has been asking that question, and employee morale can be a very difficult thing to measure, but one thing seems certain: these mandates will not improve morale in the slightest.
Dana Pico is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and alumnus of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and international Commerce, and has written for the Kentucky Kernel, UK's student newspaper, as well as a few articles for the Lexington Herald-Leader, all in the days just after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. He is now retired and living on his small farm on the banks of the Kentucky River. You can find more of his writings at The First Street Journal.
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