Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Rural health leaders worry vaccine mandate could worsen staffing shortages in rural hospitals and other health facilities

Some rural health-care stakeholders worry that President Biden's vaccine mandate will exacerbate staffing shortages in rural hospitals and other health-care facilities.

Tillamook County, Oregon
(Wikipedia map)

They include David Yamamoto, a commissioner in Tillamook County, Oregon, pop. 27,688. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, he notes that vaccine resistance is high in Tillamook and other rural areas, and that many health-care workers would rather quit than get vaccinated.

On a recent conference call, the Oregon Health Authority urged county officials to simply hire more people if that happens, but didn't seem to understand how much harder it is to find trained personnel in rural areas, Yamamoto writes.

Alan Morgan, chief executive officer of the National Rural Health Association, echoes Yamamoto's concerns, Adrianna Rodriguez reports for USA Today. When a large number of workers quit, "in a large health system or urban provider, you have that workforce ability to adjust," Morgan told Rodriguez. "You don’t have that flexibility in a rural context."

Some health-care leaders hope the mandate won't spark a mass exodus, and note that vaccination rates among nursing home employees have increased three percentage points since the Aug. 18 announcement that nursing homes would need fully vaccinated staff to continue getting federal funding, Rodriguez reports.

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