COLORADO, USA — Colorado hit a major milestone today – 75% of adults in the state are now vaccinated with one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – yet the number of state healthcare workers who are vaccinated is still lower.
The state board of health passed a vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers in the state, impacting an estimated 30% of employees at hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities in Colorado who remain unvaccinated.
Doug Farmer is the president of the Colorado Health Care Association, representing long-term care facilities.
"They will certainly lose some staff members. It’s just a question of how many at this point," said Farmer. "I’m not sure that any more education is going to change minds at this point. People will just have to decide in Colorado whether they want to work in healthcare or whether they’re willing to leave over their concerns around the vaccine."
A higher percentage of people in the general public are vaccinated compared to healthcare workers. Now the question becomes if the mandate will lead to even worse staffing shortages we’ve already seen throughout the pandemic.
It's almost a Catch 22 for the industry under the current circumstances with people threatening to quit over getting the vaccine. On one hand, you want as many people as possible to be vaccinated and protected from the virus. On the other however, you don’t want the vaccine mandate to drive away too many employees to the point where you can’t take care of the people who need help.
"It will be very difficult to replace employees who choose to leave over vaccine because your pool of potential employees is significantly smaller," said Farmer. "Now you hit this crossroads where it’s, yes, you may have more people vaccinated but it also may mean that you have fewer people."
Josh Ewing is with the Colorado Hospital Association. While many hospital systems already required vaccines, he said the new mandate now levels the playing field.
For example, an employee working at one hospital can’t move to another with different rules to avoid being vaccinated. Now everyone has to get it.
"Last week 19 of Colorado’s leading healthcare organizations signed onto a consensus statement saying that we believe that all healthcare workers should be vaccinated," said Ewing. "The vast majority of hospital workers are vaccinated at this point, but it doesn’t necessarily exist in other segments of our healthcare system."
Ewing said now they wait to see what the implications of the mandate will be on an industry already struggling to keep staff.
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