Local hospitals require vaccinations for staff

By R. Hans Miller, News Editor
Posted 8/17/21

Three of the major hospitals that serve the Katy area have all issued policies requiring staff to be vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Texas Children’s Hospital was …

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Local hospitals require vaccinations for staff

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Three of the major hospitals that serve the Katy area have all issued policies requiring staff to be vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Texas Children’s Hospital was the last of the three hospitals to serve the region to issue such a mandate when they announced the policy Aug. 11.

“We recognize the profound and encouraging truth that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is safe, effective and the primary mechanism to combat this pandemic,” said Mark A. Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children’s. “By taking this step, we are further protecting the health of our team members, patients and community.”

Houston Methodist West was the first to adopt such a policy on June 8, while the Memorial Hermann system established a similar requirement Aug. 2.

According to a Memorial Hermann press release, the policy is an effort to ensure safety for patients and staff within their facilities. At the time of the hospital system’s mandate, Memorial Hermann reported that 100% of its executives, 95% of managers and almost 87% of bedside staff were already inoculated as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the hospital system.

“The painstakingly gathered and reported medical research data overwhelmingly demonstrates that the COVID-19 vaccines are extraordinarily safe and effective,” said Dr. David L. Callender, president and CEO of Memorial Hermann. “Other factors contributing to the timing of this decision include the significant percentage of the Greater Houston population that remains unvaccinated, the relaxation of public safety measures such as masking and social distancing, and the alarming increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks.”

Jerry Ashworth, CEO of Memorial Hermann’s Katy and Cypress facilities said he agreed that the step was necessary to protect staff, patients and the general public that may come into hospitals.

“We believe we have a responsibility to safeguard our facilities, not just for the patients that come in and for our community members, but also for our employees, for our physician partners and anyone else that would come into our facility,” Ashworth said.

Wayne Voss of Houston Methodist West said that, across the Methodist system of about two-dozen locations, 153 staff had resigned or been terminated as a result of the vaccine requirement. However, he said, he’d expected Houston Methodist West’s Katy location to be hit harder than it was.

Voss said several employees did file suit against the Methodist system; however, the judge ruled in the hospital system’s favor in the case. Voss said that, upon reflection, he feels Methodist’s executive team made the right decision.

Initially, he said, he had expected about 50 employees to leave. However, through an education effort, he and his executive team were able to bring that number down to only 22 staff.

“About half of those 22 were what we call PRN employees, so they weren’t full-time, but we did lose probably 12 to 15 full-time employees,” Voss said. “We didn’t want (the requirement) to do that, but I guess I’m glad now because everyone’s catching up. Because, you know, with the tough labor market, we didn’t want to put any other impediments on it.”

Update: The University of Texas's MD Anderson Cancer Center released the following statement regarding the status of vaccinations for their staff: 

"The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is continuing with a voluntary COVID-19 vaccination program. Through our continued process of education and access, 81% of employees already have been vaccinated through MD Anderson’s program in addition to those who have chosen vaccination through other providers. Workforce vaccination clinics are ongoing, and safety precautions continue in our clinical areas, including masking and social distancing."

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