Hospital does not require vaccine, a big factor being staffing shortages

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 11:23 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 6:54 AM CDT
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PIGGOTT, Ark. (KAIT) - The Piggott Community Hospital (PCH) does not require the COVID-19 vaccine for staff. They say being understaffed and having fears of losing too many nurses played a significant role in the decision.

“It’s the worst staffing challenge that I’ve seen,” said James Magee, executive director. “It’s a daily challenge to make sure we have the staff on different shifts that we need.”

Magee says as a small, rural hospital finding nursing staff is a challenge. It is why his hospital is one of the few not requiring staff to get the COVID vaccine.

“From a personal standpoint, I would like to see everybody vaccinated,” said Magee.

Magee says he’s unsure how many they’d lose if they required the shot, but it would definitely be some.

The hospital has around 60 to 70 nurses and needs at least seven to eight more to handle the strain.

“Mandating that really works a hard step on the smaller hospitals because we don’t have an extra pool of nurses to draw from out there,” said Magee.

He says it’s hard to hire folks in the healthcare field because they have many employment options. The hospital hasn’t seen a whole lot of nurses leave because of the added stress of the pandemic. While nurses aren’t leaving his hospital, they are working extra shifts and longer hours, putting a financial strain on the hospital.

“It shoots a hole in our budget, no question about that, but you get to the point where you just don’t have the people,” said Magee.

The hospital usually does not care for critically ill patients. It typically sends about 50 patients a month to larger hospitals. Because of the pandemic, finding a bed elsewhere has been a problem, so doctors and nurses have cared for the sicker patients.

Magee says his hospital is preparing for this trend to continue, even if other hospitals continue to see further staffing shortages.

“Our hospital has just recently begun a specialist program via telemedicine,” said Magee.

That will allow them to treat sicker patients with respiratory, cardiology, neurology issues, and infectious diseases.

PCH is a 25-bed facility. Right now, they’re taking care of anywhere from 5 to 12 COVID patients daily.

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