Vaccine mandate may stop nurse job jumping

Georgia hospital officials were scrambling Friday to gauge the impact of President Biden’s order for health care workers to get vaccinated for Covid-19.

The mandate would apply to health care facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients – virtually all hospitals – as well as dialysis centers, surgery centers and home care operations.

The new order, if it ultimately takes effect, would appear to end the trend of nurses who don’t want the shots leaving for positions at hospitals with no vaccination mandates.

Georgia hospital officials say such job-jumping has occurred here, with hospitals that don’t require vaccinations getting new RN applications at a time when nurses are generally in short supply.

But industry officials also worry that some hospital employees in non-medical categories — such as housekeeping, food service, call centers and other departments — will leave for similar jobs outside the health care business once a vaccine order is implemented.

GHN spoke Friday with several hospital officials who requested anonymity.

Large Georgia hospital systems Piedmont, Emory, Wellstar and Atrium already have a vaccination mandate for employees. The Biden order may actually help their hospitals retain employees who may have been considering leaving for facilities that don’t require the shots.

The Northside Hospital system, which does not have a vaccine mandate, did not respond to questions Friday about the Biden mandate’s effect on its operations.

HCA, with several hospitals in Georgia, also does not currently require vaccinations of employees. The Tennessee-based hospital chain said Friday that it would “review the details of Biden’s plan and respond accordingly, just as we have in states that have mandated vaccination.’’

About 41% of hospitals nationwide had some sort of employee vaccination mandate, or about 2,550 hospitals, as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the American Hospital Association.

Biden conceded the mandates would take time to “have full impact.” Using a combination of executive orders and new federal rules, Biden’s strategy includes rolling out a general vaccination mandate for large employers.

It would require all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are either vaccinated or are tested weekly for Covid,

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” the president said Thursday in remarks aimed at unvaccinated Americans.

Several Republican governors say the Biden plan represents government overreach.

Gov. Brian Kemp threatened to go to court to challenge Biden’s vaccine requirements.

Kemp said Thursday that he will “pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration” shortly after the president announced plans that could affect as many as 100 million Americans.

Members of the nursing home industry — some of whom had felt singled out by the earlier rule requiring vaccinations for their employees — welcomed the move to extend the requirements to other sectors of health care.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, said in a statement that his group applauds the vaccine requirements for other health care settings. “This will help prevent unvaccinated nursing home staff from looking for new lines of work, alleviating some of the staffing challenges too many long-term care facilities are currently facing,’’ he said.

The president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Gerald Harmon, also praised the Biden move.

“Aggressive measures will be needed to prevent further widespread transmission of Covid-19,’’ he said in a statement.

Covid cases, fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, are sweeping across Georgia and the Southeast.

Georgia reported more than 8,600 new infections Friday, along with 128 Covid deaths. Public Health said 98 percent of the state’s ICU beds were filled.

The state has among the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

There are costs to the health care system when many people are not vaccinated.

A Medicare beneficiary hospitalized with Covid-19 costs the health insurance program about 150 times more than it does to fully vaccinate that individual, a CNN analysis showed.

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