Hospital workers required to get COVID-19 vaccine

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Unless they have a religious or medical exemption, Eureka Springs Hospital employees are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4.

At the Eureka Springs Hospital Commission’s regular meeting Monday night, hospital CEO Angie Shaw announced a Nov. 5 ruling by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that requires employees at all healthcare facilities participating in Medicare or Medicaid to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6. The employees must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, Shaw said.

“We are currently working on our policies and procedures to educate the staff and confirm compliance to this ruling,” Shaw said.

Angie Shaw

Commissioner April Griffith asked about the exemptions, and Shaw said the information regarding religious and medical exemptions should arrive soon. Commissioner David Carlisle asked if unvaccinated employees would be tested for COVID-19 and Shaw said no.

“So does that mean the non-vaccinated no longer have a position?” asked commissioner Kent Turner.

“If they have an exemption…” Shaw said.

“If they don’t have an exemption or they’re not vaccinated, then they lose their job?” Turner asked.

“Exactly,” Shaw said.

“Or we lose our Medicare,” Turner said.

Turner then asked if the hospital would lose any staff members because of the ruling.

“We’re looking for so many people, we can’t afford to lose one,” Turner said. “… The last I heard, our vaccination rate was pretty high.”

“It is,” Shaw said.

In other business, Turner said the main walk-in refrigeration unit in the hospital must be replaced. It will cost around $18,000 to replace the unit. There’s an additional cost, Turner said, because the cabinetry must be fixed to remove and replace the existing unit. That means it will cost more than $24,000 to complete the work, Turner said.

“That is over the $20,000 limit that [Shaw] has to expend money,” Turner said. “I told her I was going to get her off the hook.”

Turner then moved to approve “$24,000 and change to install the freezer downstairs on an emergency basis,” and the commission unanimously agreed to do so.

Earlier in the meeting, Turner delivered the financial report. Turner said the checking account balance stands at $16,901.01, with one disbursement over the past month for $118 to pay for a post office box. The money market account accrued $430.53 in interest since the commission’s last meeting, Turner said, bringing that total to $1,440,758.86. Turner added that the CD earned interest of $2,218.78, for a total of $437.999.75 in that account.

Shaw updated the commission on the hospital’s COVID-19 testing, saying testing is still offered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and vaccine clinics are held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays. COVID-19 testing has tapered off over the past two weeks, Shaw said.

“We hope that continues,” Shaw said. “We haven’t seen very many positives.”

The pediatric Pfizer vaccine will be offered during the regular vaccine clinic by the end of the week, Shaw said, with a clinic planned for the Eureka Springs School District on site. The pediatric Pfizer vaccine is for ages 5-11, Shaw said.

Shaw said the hospital is still trying to fill open nursing positions, as well as a marketing position and the swing bed case manager position.

“We’re reaching out to … see if we can get someone in that position as quick as we can,” Shaw said.

The respiratory department is fully covered, Shaw said, and doing well.

“When they’re not in their departments, they’re helping all the other departments,” Shaw said. “They’ve even been helping do COVID testing when they’re here during the day hours.”

The hospital has a new speech therapist, Shaw said, who is setting up the speech therapy program. The ER census remains steady, Shaw said, and the ER director has been attending stroke and trauma-related meetings in the Northwest Arkansas region to ensure the hospital is staying in compliance with those programs.

Shaw said the planned hospital clinic, located at 25 Norris St., has received both Medicare and Medicaid approval.

“We have sent requests out to commercial insurances to get them on board with us,” Shaw said. “We are hoping to have it open by mid-December.”

At the end of the meeting, Turner announced that the commission will have a public workshop on Saturday, Dec. 4, at Main Stage. The workshop will focus on infrastructure, building projects and the future of the hospital, Turner said.

“As far as I’m concerned, everybody in the community is welcome until we get up to 125,” Turner said. “Then I have to stop letting people in Main Stage.”

The hospital’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20, at The Auditorium.

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