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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Health care worker vaccine mandate presses forward while state worries of even worse staff shortages

Looking down a dark hospital hall. Figure walks far in the foreground
Public Domain

Last week, the Supreme Court allowed the federal health care worker coronavirus vaccine mandate to go through. A lower court had put the mandate on pause in late November.

Now any employee, volunteer or contractor working at health care facilities receiving Medicaid or Medicare funding has to be fully vaccinated, be tested weekly or provide an exemption by Feb. 28.

Wyoming Hospital Association and Leading Age Wyoming President Eric Boley said he's very worried about what this means for hospitals in the state, which are already dealing with a staffing shortage. Especially as it looks like the state will be dealing with another hospitalization surge in the next couple of weeks.

"I just see that continuing to get worse. If we start seeing the additional shortages and staff, we're going to have to decide where we can most successfully use those staff members," said Boley. "And so folks that normally are in surgery are now being used on the acute care floor to treat COVID patients and so surgeries are going away."

All hospitals and nursing homes in Wyoming are affected by this mandate because they get some kind of federal dollars. Boley said a bigger direct impact may be seen in nursing homes.

"Worst case scenario is we could have nursing homes that don't have enough staff and might have to start finding places to discharge residents," he said.

But those residents will probably end up at hospitals that are also dealing with staff shortages. Boley said hospitals are resilient and will find ways to take care of those extra patients but it is only making the problem more acute.

He said he has worked with the governor's office to put out additional funding to help retain staff with bonuses, but it will come down to personal choice for health care workers to decide to stay and be burned out or leave the industry completely.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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