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Short-staffed Samaritan loses some workers to mandate, keeps caring for COVID-19 patients

by EMILY THORNTON
Assistant Managing Editor | October 22, 2021 1:05 AM

Ten employees at Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake lost their jobs due to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, but only two of those were Monday, officials said.

Seven of the employees were in clinical/patient care and eight of the job losses “were staff resignations dating back to August,” Gretchen Youngren, Samaritan’s director of development & communications, wrote in an email. The other two were fired Monday.

Gov. Jay Inslee imposed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate Aug. 9, requiring most state executive branch employees and on-site contractors and volunteers, public and private health care and long-term care workers to be vaccinated by Oct. 18, with the final dose needed by Oct. 4 to meet the deadline, or risk losing their jobs.

At the same time, the hospital has had an ongoing staffing shortage. Youngren said earlier this month the hospital had 65 open positions in patient and clinical care, including on-call, full-time and part-time, and hospital staff were recruiting for those. Samaritan’s total employee count is just more than 700, Youngren added.

“Beyond the additional complexities that came with the governor’s vaccine mandate, we continue to see an incredibly high patient census and are working with all teams to come up with creative solutions to ensure that we can provide care to all patients needing care in our facility,” Youngren wrote.

Youngren also said hospital officials haven’t heard anything from the Washington State Hospital Association or the Department of Defense on receiving help. Hospital officials filled out a survey with the WSHA in late September to say what resources Samaritan could use if they were made available, Youngren said. And, Inslee announced Sept. 21 he was asking for DoD medical personnel for hospitals.

There were 20 COVID-19 patients at Samaritan as of Thursday, eight of whom were vaccinated against the virus, according to a graphic emailed to the Herald.

Nine of the 20 were in the intensive care unit, and one ICU patient was on a ventilator.

Eight of the 20 were in the medical-surgical unit and three were in the emergency department.

All of the ICU and medical-surgical beds were in use and six of the 13 mother-baby unit beds were in use, the latter of which were not for COVID-19.

The rate of COVID-19 cases in Grant County declined 26% in the previous week as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker. The death rate dropped 57%, but the number was suppressed.

The hospitalization rate increased 100%, with 22 new admissions in the past week as of Tuesday in the county, according to the CDC.

In Adams County, the CDC stated the rate increased 18% in the previous week as of Wednesday, but the death rate dropped 50%. However, the number for the death rate was suppressed.

The percent of hospitalizations in Adams County didn’t change in the previous week as of Tuesday, with just two new admissions, the CDC stated.