Washington Regional deadline for employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations nears

Northwest Arkansas News

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Washington Regional Medical Center is requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1.

President and CEO Larry Shackelford says the high number of unvaccinated hospitalizations and proven vaccine effectiveness led to his decision to require his staff to be vaccinated.

Time is running out for Washington Regional employees to comply with the hospital’s new vaccination policy.

“This is not a decision that was made lightly,” Shackelford said.

In late July, Shackelford announced as of October 1, all employees, medical and allied health staff members, students, clinical rotators and volunteers must be vaccinated or apply for an exemption.

“If we were going to talk the talk, if we were going to say we believe one of the ways out is through the vaccine, then we needed to demonstrate that as well,” Shackelford said.

Shackelford says about 6% of his workforce has asked to be exempt for medical or religious reasons and a vast majority of those have been approved.

Like this registered nurse who wishes to remain anonymous.

“The fact that they are forcing people, it’s taking away people’s choice and as a nurse, I would never ever force a patient to take a medication that they weren’t comfortable with,” the employee said.

While the employee may not agree with the policy, compliance is already high among hospital staff.

“100% of the physicians who are practicing here are in compliance. I think that speaks volumes and so I’m really proud of that,” Shackelford said.

Shackelford said 98% percent of allied staff, which includes nurse practitioners and pharmacists, have been fully vaccinated as have just over 96% of Washington Regional team members.

That leaves about 4% who still need to get the shot or a new job.

“If someone makes that choice, it does make me sad. I certainly respect that choice that they’ve made but unfortunately, that choice is going to mean that they can’t choose to work at Washington Regional,” Shackelford said.

Shackelford says upwards of 95% of COVID-19 patients who’ve been hospitalized have been eligible to receive the vaccine but chose not to. So he stands behind his October 1 deadline for Washington Regional employees.

“This has been a decision that’s been hard but I can tell you that we really think with where we are today and where we’ve been, it’s the right thing,” Shackelford said.

For employees who aren’t fully vaccinated by October 1, they must have received at least one of a two-shot dose to remain employed at Washington Regional and have their next dose scheduled.

Proof of vaccination needs to be submitted to the employee Health Department within Human Resources.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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