Coronavirus Health

A major hospital system that mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees is reporting a nearly 100% compliance rate with the requirement. 

Baptist Health announced in early August that all staff, contractors and vendors at its nine hospitals in Kentucky and Indiana, along with those at the Baptist Health Medical Group, a network of more than 1,100 physicians and clinicians, would need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 unless they got an exemption for religious or medical reasons. 

Those with exemptions may be moved to areas where they don’t directly care for patients, and will be required to be tested regularly. 

Baptist Health’s chief strategy and marketing officer Dr. Jody Prather said that as of Nov. 12, 99.6% of the overall hospital system workforce — around 25,000 — had complied. 

“Obviously, we were concerned like everyone else,” Prather said. “Could this mean some folks had to leave the system?” 

But that didn’t come to pass. Prather says fewer than one tenth of one percent, or 10 people, did not comply and left the company. 

Prior to the mandate, roughly 70% of staff had been fully vaccinated. 

The August policy came as hospital leaders reported a steady rise in hospitalizations due to COVID and the deadlier delta variant in August.

Prather said at the pandemic’s peak, the Baptist system had 550 COVID patients across its nine hospitals. Some medical procedures had to be delayed, as spaces like operating rooms were repurposed to help care for the influx.

“Then, on top of that, we were seeing hundreds and hundreds of people, of staff, having to be quarantined at that time because of lack of vaccination and exposure,” Prather said. 

Baptist leaders planned for potential staffing challenges due to the mandate, continuing to recruit new employees and making use of traveling professionals. More than 96% of current job applicants have been fully vaccinated. 

As of Thursday, there were 142 people hospitalized at Baptist for COVID-19 — 112 of those were not fully vaccinated. This includes 34 people in the ICU and 16 people on ventilators. None of the patients on ventilators were fully vaccinated. 

The Indiana Department of Health reported 3,939 new COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, of the 1.1 million reported since March 2020. The Kentucky Department for Public Health reported Thursday 1,855 new cases of the 768,656 overall. 

 

Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.