President Biden’s new vaccination plan could impact staff of local hospitals

Coronavirus

Doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine wait to be administered to the students and faculty of UTPB during a vaccination clinic held in partnership with Midland Memorial Hospital, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Odessa, Texas. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The announcement of new vaccination mandates from President Joe Biden Thursday (Sept. 9) could impact the staff of local hospitals and their vaccination status.

During Thursday’s speech, Biden stated that around 17 million workers at healthcare facilities which receive federal funding for Medicare and/or Medicaid coverage will have to be fully vaccinated. Biden also announced during the speech that all employers with 100 or more employees must either mandate vaccines or test weekly.

MyHighPlains.com reached out to officials from both the BSA Health System, as well as the Northwest Texas Healthcare System, to see how these new federal requirements will impact staff members at the two hospitals.

Officials from BSA gave the following statement, saying: “We continue to educate our staff and the community about the importance of getting vaccinated. We are reviewing news reports about this announcement and are in the process of gathering more information.”

In a statement from Northwest, officials stated that they did not have any comment because they did “not know the details of the President’s plan.”

Brian Weis, the chief medical officer for the Northwest Texas Healthcare System, commented during an early August COVID-19 news conference regarding the potential requirement of vaccinating staff.

“There is talk. Lots of talk,” Brian Weis, the chief medical officer for the Northwest Texas Healthcare System, said during an August COVID-19 news conference. “The problem is obviously both Northwest and BSA are owned by larger corporate entities. Those conversations are really at the corporate level. So, I can tell you there’s a lot of strong consideration.

“I do think a lot of these entities are waiting for full approval of those vaccines,” Weis continued. “At that point, like the influenza vaccine that we require for all staff, I think we would feel more comfortable with saying at that point, we feel that we could mandate the vaccine for our workers to keep them safe and keep our patients safe.” 

Officials with the Amarillo VA Healthcare System previously said they are mandating vaccines for Title 38 VA healthcare personnel, including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors, according to a news release from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This policy went into effect in late July. Rodney Gonzalez, the director of the Amarillo VA Healthcare System, spoke on this requirement during a previous COVID-19 news conference.

“We still continue to offer all of our employees to get vaccinated,” Gonzalez said. “That policy just came out (in late July) and yes, we are going to be moving forward with it, requiring it for all our health care personnel that are required by that policy, the statement that came out by the secretary of the VA.”

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