VOICES: Vaccinating healthcare workers helps everyone

A Clark County resident gets a COVID vaccine shot Thursday at the Clark County Combined Health District's new vaccine center on Leffel Lane. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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A Clark County resident gets a COVID vaccine shot Thursday at the Clark County Combined Health District's new vaccine center on Leffel Lane. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

We are in the fourth surge of COVID-19 in the Dayton region. Since July 6, members of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association (GDAHA) have reported a rapid increase in hospitalizations and patients in intensive care due to COVID-19. Next week, we anticipate crossing our peak threshold – the highest number of patients we have cared for with COVID-19 in the Dayton region. And yet, as cases continue to rise, we see some people living in a very different reality – as though COVID-19 no longer exists.

Our numbers continue to rise without regard for whether we can continue to safely provide all the care this region needs. As COVID-19 hospitalized and intensive care patients continue to increase, we are seeing consequences across Ohio that we pray do not become reality here. In the last week, hospital partners in one part of the state began canceling elective surgeries and procedures to preserve their ability to provide emergency and critical care. In another Ohio region, hospital emergency departments closed to ambulances and people in need of emergency care. Instead of going to the hospital with the appropriate level of care for their medical situation, ambulances were required to take patients to the next hospital in line to evenly distribute the number of people transported that night. Our hospitals are doing everything they can to be nimble and modify how care is provided to avoid similar outcomes. And yet, we find ourselves at the precipice of difficult decisions.

Yes, our hospitals have weathered previous surges. And yes, we continue to work in partnership to manage the overall volume of patients needing care in our region. But this time it is different. We have a tool that is readily available to help us avoid the rapid increase in the COVID-19 patients - the COVID-19 vaccine. Through GDAHA, we continue to encourage the region’s healthcare workforce of nearly 40,000 people to get vaccinated. Healthcare workers are vital to the region’s healthcare infrastructure and our local economy. Ensuring that each one is vaccinated will help hospitals and healthcare organizations ensure that they can provide the highest level of protection to their clinical and non-clinical team members.

Based on the nature of their work, healthcare workers are already at a higher risk for infectious diseases, and COVID-19 is now on that list. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations follow strict standards to ensure they protect the health and safety of their workforce. The Centers for Disease Control’s recommended vaccinations for healthcare workers is not punitive - it is protective. Doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel, dental professionals and students, medical and nursing students, pharmacists, technicians, administrative staff, and even volunteers must adhere to their organization’s policy for vaccinations. Requiring all healthcare workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine helps our region ensure the health and safety of our clinical and non-clinical workforce and puts all healthcare organizations on equal ground.

ExploreSee more of our COVID-19 coverage.

While we await the regulatory details of the new requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, I am confident in our region’s hospitals and healthcare organizations’ ability to manage the process for their employees. The groundwork to do so exists because vaccine requirements, exemptions for medical and religious reasons, and acceptance of prior infections through the proof of antibodies or blood titers are already in place. Each year, hospitals must manage vaccine requirements for new employees as well as boosters for existing employees. The federal requirement to include the COVID-19 vaccine in the list of infections we already seek to protect healthcare workers from is a necessary step. Communicable diseases like hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, whooping cough, tetanus, and meningitis are not running rampant in our community.

The threat posed by COVID-19 to our community’s healthcare infrastructure and ability to care for you in your time of need is real. Vaccinating nearly 40,000 healthcare workers in the Dayton region will help us provide care for every patient who needs it, help us reach a higher level of immunity as a region, and begin a successful recovery from COVID-19 that includes all of us. And time is of the utmost importance. We must begin the task of ensuring all healthcare workers are vaccinated now to redouble our efforts to control COVID-19 and bring down hospitalizations and intensive care use before we enter flu season. If not, we will further strain an already overextended healthcare network of providers, partners, and workers – especially if we begin flu season without a mask requirement in Ohio.

And in case you are wondering what you can do to help these amazing healthcare workers and exceptional organizations continue to care for patents in these extraordinary times, get vaccinated and wear a mask.

Sarah Hackenbracht is the President and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association. GDAHA is a member service organization for more than 29 hospitals and healthcare organizations in the greater Dayton region.

ExploreRead the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's response to the vaccine mandate.
Sarah Hackenbracht is the President and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association. GDAHA is a member service organization for more than 29 hospitals and healthcare organizations in the greater Dayton region.
Caption
Sarah Hackenbracht is the President and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association. GDAHA is a member service organization for more than 29 hospitals and healthcare organizations in the greater Dayton region.