DCH Well being System workers are confronted with inner COVID-19 vaccination resistance
Just over half of all doctors, nurses and employees in the DCH health system are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
That total of 53.3%, as reported by DCH Chief Operating Officer Paul Betz, surprised many at Wednesday’s COVID-19 update hosted by the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce.
“This is not the right place,” Betz said of the DCH’s internal vaccination numbers, but had an answer when chamber members asked why the DCH is not prescribing the vaccine for its employees.
It is not so easy to make it a condition of employment, said Betz, because some DCH employees are strongly against taking any of the newly developed vaccines, such as those developed by Phizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
This, coupled with the ongoing nursing shortage the country is facing, puts DCH in a difficult position. With no nearby hospitals, especially none in Birmingham, requiring vaccination of their staff, there is a real fear that DCH could lose staff if it mandated COVID-19 vaccinations among its staff.
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So far, DCH has been offering its newly vaccinated workers additional vacation days, but is not yet ready to request a vaccination, Betz said.
“We cannot afford to drive any percentage of our employees and force them to leave,” said Betz. “We have to balance the moral and operational challenges of meeting the demand.
“That is the challenge that we face internally.”
To counteract this, Betz again called for the help of anyone who is a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse.
DCH has developed fixed-term contracts for those who can only work a few hours a week and also has full-time positions available
Betz urged anyone who could help correct the nursing deficiencies in the hospital system to contact the DCH health system at 205-333-4722.
Since that request last week, six people have contacted the health system to offer their services, he said.
This renewed call for help comes as COVID-19 cases in the DCH health system continue to increase.
On Wednesday morning, 87 patients with COVID-19 were in DCH Health System hospitals – 68 of them in the DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa – and 23 were in need of intensive care.
Betz showed statistics suggesting fewer than 10 patients needed respiratory assistance, but the jump from 25 inpatients on July 22 to 87 two weeks later is an indication of what may be ahead, he said.
“You can see the rapid acceleration, that this variant is so much more contagious and that it spreads so much faster,” said Betz.
Lately, those who have been shown to be most susceptible to the novel coronavirus are between 25 and 49 years old.
Women are proving to be more susceptible to men and, as in previous waves, members of the black community are more ill than other races or nationalities, he said.
For those who have symptoms of COVID-19, DCH offers outpatient antibody infusion treatment at its DCH Northport facility – commonly known as a “cocktail” that President Donald Trump received when he contracted COVID-19.
This treatment requires a doctor’s prescription, so Betz urged anyone who saw her to see their personal doctor first.
But on Monday, DCH will offer this two-hour treatment package five days a week.
“The demand has skyrocketed so quickly,” said Betz.
Despite vaccination rates among DCH employees, Betz said the most effective way to prevent serious illness or illness caused by COVID-19 is to get vaccinations.
At 53.3%, DCH’s employee-wide vaccination rates are better than the state’s, which was last at 34%, and Tuscaloosa County’s rate, which was 30.6% last week, Betz said.
DCH will continue to give the vaccine every Friday for the “for the foreseeable future”. Appointments can be made at dchsytem.com/covidvaccine.
After Betz went back to 100 to 200 appointments in the previous weeks, Betz said the demand for the COVID-19 vaccine had increased. On Friday, 469 vaccination appointments are planned in the DCH drive-through clinic.
For more information about vaccination clinics across Alabama, visit vaccines.gov or call 1-800-232-0233.
“People need to be vaccinated,” said Betz, repeating his self-created acronym that the vaccine is SAFE – safe, accessible, free, and effective.
“When you put all these vaccine-related facts together,” Betz said, “we really come to the conclusion that this surge that we are seeing is largely preventable.”
You can reach Jason Morton at [email protected]