Last week, we asked our members to participate in a statewide survey about their staff vaccination rates following the Oct. 4 cut-off to be vaccinated ahead of the Oct. 18 deadline. Thank you so much for your fast and thorough responses. The results show a significant increase in COVID-19 vaccination rates in most Washington hospitals and health systems ahead of the state deadline for health care worker vaccinations.
With 94 percent of Washington’s hospitals reporting, the survey shows an overall staff vaccination rate of 88 percent statewide. 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. However, we know there is wide variability in this number and that several of our members and their patients will be hit much harder.
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. In addition to concerns about the impact of the vaccine requirement on hospital services, we also have concerns 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 that transport patients to and between health care facilities.
Washington hospitals continue to urge their staff to get vital COVID-19 vaccines, and many are still making progress. We recognize the vaccine requirement has been a challenging issue for our membership. This issue has important, and sometimes conflicting goals – getting as many staff vaccinated as possible, and also keeping the health system functioning to serve Washingtonians. We so appreciate members’ engagement with us and with each other as we navigate this together. WSHA will continue to support hospitals and health systems in navigating the vaccine requirement and sustaining community access to health care services.