Early survey shows vaccine deadline’s impact on hospitals and health system staffing

October 11, 2021

A statewide survey of hospitals and health systems in Washington state shows a significant increase in COVID-19 vaccination rates in most hospitals ahead of the state deadline for health care worker vaccinations. The Washington State Hospital Association surveyed members about their staff vaccination rates following the Oct. 4 cut-off to be vaccinated ahead of the Oct. 18 deadline.

With 94 percent of Washington’s hospitals reporting, the survey shows an overall staff vaccination rate of 88 percent statewide. There is variability among hospitals’ vaccination rates, however. The remaining 12 percent are a mix of staff who are partially vaccinated, have an approved exemption and accommodation, have applied or plan to apply for an exemption that has not yet been reviewed, have not yet provided verification, or are choosing not to be vaccinated. The hospital association believes that statewide, two to five percent of hospital staff could leave the workforce because of the vaccination requirement. The final number will not likely be known until early November.

“Washington hospitals continue to urge their staff to get vital COVID-19 vaccines. We are pleased that most hospitals and health systems have achieved a high rate of vaccination, which will allow patients to continue to access life-saving care across Washington State,” Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association said. “We know there will be some impacts on services, and we will continue to support hospitals and health systems in navigating the vaccine requirement.”

The survey asked hospitals to share information about the anticipated impact of staff losses on patient care. Several hospitals reported that they will need to reduce or consolidate some services.

“It is clear that staffing remains constrained across the health care system and the loss of staff will have an impact on patients, including continued delays for less urgent procedures and longer waits for outpatient appointments,” Sauer said.

Finally, hospital association members expressed concern about the impact of the vaccine requirement on other services essential to the functioning of the health care system. These include long-term care providers and emergency medical services to transport patients to and between health care facilities.

The survey results were discussed during the hospital association’s regular COVID-19 media briefing at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 11. To view a recording of the briefing, please contact Ryan Lam by e-mailing ryanl@wsha.org.


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