Savannah hospitals react to federal mandates on COVID-19 vaccine

Photo: Getty Images

BySean Evans

Published:Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:33 PM EDT

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The White House announced a six-pronged strategy last week to help get America out of the grips of the pandemic.

One of those strategies includes requiring COVID-19 vaccines for over 17 million health care workers.

Two major Savannah hospitals released statements on how they’re planning for any potential adjustments. Both written statements from HCA Healthcare, which oversees Memorial Health, and St. Joseph’s/Candler lead off in a very similar way, that they’re reviewing the details of the President’s plan and working on next steps.

You can read HCA Healthcare’s statement below:

“We will review the details of President Biden’s plan and respond accordingly, just as we have in states that have mandated vaccination. HCA Healthcare helps to ensure a safe environment by following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and our infectious disease experts have been strongly encouraging vaccination as a critical step to protect individuals from the virus. Additionally, our hospitals follow guidance outlined by the CDC regarding protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in our facilities, including universal masking for all colleagues, patients and visitors.”

You can read St. Joseph’s Candler’s statement below:

“St. Joseph’s/Candler will determine next steps regarding the federal governments vaccine mandate once we receive more information regarding the emergency regulations that will govern implementation. There are still many questions about the federal mandate that need to be understood like declinations related to religious freedom, high risk health conditions, etc. SJ/C currently has a vaccination rate of 72% which meets the threshold for herd immunity. SJ/C strongly supports vaccinations and we will continue to make every effort to do our part to help our citizens get vaccinated.”

Right now, St. Joseph’s/Candler says they have a 72 percent vaccination rate among employees. Memorial Health leaders tell us about 60 percent of their employees are fully vaccinated, which isn’t as high as they’d like, but around the national average when looking at all health care providers.

Memorial Health’s Associate Chief Medical Officer says a mandate across all health care systems would help get those numbers up, without losing critical staff who might object to mandates.

“I think the idea of creating a level playing field for all employers is a smart move, because it avoids the worries that many in health care have of, if I make a mandate, will I lose some of my critical nursing workforce or respiratory therapists that are here to help meet the needs of my community,” said Dr. Stephen Thacker, Associate Chief Medical Officer.

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