The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

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By Michele Smith
The Times 

Vaccinating health care workers a slow process in Columbia County

Only half are fully vaccinated


August 12, 2021

DAYTON—A question on the minds of many in our community is why the Columbia County Health System (CCHS) does not require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Back in January, CCHS employees took an internal survey to assess their receptivity to the vaccine. According to Stephanie Carpenter, COO, one-third said yes, they would. One-third said probably, but not now, and one-third said they would not get the vaccine.

Last week, Carpenter said that currently, only a little over half of all CCHS employees are fully vaccinated.

At the hospital district board meeting in May, Commissioner Jim Kime pointedly asked Katie Roughton, Director of Nursing Services at the Booker Rest Home, if staff there were fully vaccinated and, if not, why not. She replied that there was no requirement from the state, but if the board pressed her, she would look into it. There were no further comments from other board members or administrators at that meeting.

Kime’s question is essential, as COVID-19 cases in the area have increased, and the Delta variant is becoming more prevalent. Intensive Care Units (ICUs) at area hospitals are filling to capacity.

Last week, the Columbia County Board of Health Medical Director Lewis Neace, M.D. told the board, it had taken him six hours to find a bed for one patient infected with Covid-19.

Washington State Hospital Association CEO Carrie Sauer said the hospital association’s board of directors urges hospitals and health care providers to require their employees to get the vaccine.

“This is a big deal,” Sauer said at an Aug. 2 briefing. “We understand vaccine requirements are controversial, but we think it is the right thing to do.”

Providence St. Mary Medical Center and Providence Medical group announced on Thursday, Aug. 5, that caregivers employed at their facilities must be vaccinated against COVID- 19 by Sept. 30.

When asked about requiring vaccines for CCHS employees, CEO Shane McGuire said they could be required from state or federal governments at some point in time, and when that happens, CCHS will comply.

“We currently have not made them required, but we are working on policies and procedures to keep everybody, vaccinated and not, healthy and safe. Healthcare workers have to manage infectious illnesses as part of their jobs, every day, and at this time, we are reluctant to make people’s healthcare decisions for them,” he said.

McGuire said education and messaging from CCHS is continuing around the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing most people from getting COVID-19, becoming symptomatic, or ending up in the hospital.


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