Hospitals projected to lose 2-5% of staff after vaccine mandate takes effect

Oct 11, 2021, 4:29 PM | Updated: 4:36 pm
vaccine mandate, health care...
Harborview Medical Center. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) expects between 2% and 5% of hospital staffers to leave after the COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect next week.

WSHA CEO Cassie Sauer said this projection is based on a survey the association conducted last week after Oct. 4, the last day for people to get their shots to meet the Oct. 18 vaccine mandate deadline. The true number of staffers lost likely won’t be known until November.

“About 88% of hospital staffers said they were fully vaccinated. Others may still be in the process of getting vaccinated, may be seeking exemptions, or may have forgotten to report their vaccination yet,” Sauer said.

“2% to 5% is honestly better than many of us had thought might happen,” Sauer continued.

State’s hospitals warn stroke, appendicitis patients seeing delayed care

She noted that 2-5% is equal to roughly between 3,000 and 7,500 people, and not all of those leaving over the vaccine mandate will be nurses or other people who work directly with patients. Sauer observed that “it could be folks in accounting, or who are stocking the rooms, or keeping the rooms really clean, or working in food services.”

“But we also know that there will be services curtailed,” she warned.

Hospitals across the state have already seen serious treatments delayed over the summer and now into fall — such as appendectomies, tumor removal surgeries, and treatment for stroke patients — because of the COVID surge and the ongoing lack of staff.

“It’s likely to get worse. … I don’t know that we know for sure, but I think that we will see some more delays,” Sauer said.

Hospitals losing the greatest portions of staff are expected to have the biggest cuts in service and treatment. Sauer noted that some of the effects of the lost staff could include “closing down or really limiting outpatient services” and “longer wait times for services.”

“We could see some caps in inpatient admissions,” she described. “One hospital discussed whether they might need to close their dialysis unit, some psychiatric units.”

While a 2-5% loss is the statewide prediction, some individual hospitals are looking to be better than that — and others worse.

“The place that seems to have the likeliest biggest impact is rural Eastern Washington, from what we’ve seen so far,” Sauer said.

Newport Hospital, which sits in Northeast Washington on the border with Idaho, confirmed that. The hospital is in Pend Oreille County, in which just 37% of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

“Just because of where we are, we’re definitely going to see a higher percentage than 2-5%,” said Newport Chief Operations Officer Christina Wagar. “We’re looking at probably losing about 10% of our staff, which is extremely significant.”

Of that 10%, she said half of the hospital’s physical therapy department is likely to go, which may force people to drive to Spokane for physical therapy.

In contrast, Evergreen Health in Kirkland said 97% of its staff members are fully vaccinated.

“A continued decline in the COVID peak would help to bring back some of the care being delayed,” Sauer said.

“If COVID cases keep falling, that eases some pressure on hospitals as well, so it’s kind of a balance,” she added.

However, while COVID cases were falling steadily since the start of September, they appear to have plateaued — so there is no telling yet whether that promising downward trend will continue, freeing up staffers.

“We were seeing about a 10% decline every week in the past few weeks, and this very past week, we only saw a 2% decline,” Sauer said.

And even on the weeks where the charts show 10% drops, looks can be deceiving, she warned.

“One of the reasons that hospitalizations are going down is that people are dying. You’ve got 15 to 20 people dying every day in the hospital, that does contribute to hospitalizations going down,” Sauer said. “We do not want that to be the way that hospitalizations are going down. We want it to go down because people are not getting sick.”

Local News

Tonga volcano...
MyNorthwest Staff

How Tonga volcano eruption pushed out Seattle fog from nearly 6,000 miles away

The effect of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano on the Seattle area manifested in a peculiar way over the weekend after its eruption.
9 hours ago
A home in Bellevue slid off its foundations and collapsed. (Photo courtesy of BellevuePD/Twitter)...
MyNorthwest Staff

Bellevue home slid off foundation and collapsed

A home in Bellevue slid off its foundation early Monday and has collapsed. Officer rescued two people inside the home.
9 hours ago
Pierce County, hit-and-run...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Pierce County hit-and-run driver strikes two 12-year-old girls, killing one

A devastated Pierce County father is pleading with a hit-and-run driver to come forward after his 12-year-old daughter was killed and her friend injured.
9 hours ago
KIRO 7 News Staff

Man shot, killed in Seattle’s Central District

An investigation is underway after a 36-year-old man was shot and killed Sunday night in Seattle’s Central District.
1 day ago
Gas-powered yard tools...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

State lawmaker proposes bill to offer people money in exchange for gas-powered yard tools

A state lawmaker from Seattle is pushing to offer financial incentives to state residents if they give up their gas-powered yard tools.
1 day ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Nearly 600 potholes reported to SDOT last week in wake of frigid weather

Frigid temperatures have had the Seattle Department of Transportation working to fill hundreds of potholes across the city in January. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Hospitals projected to lose 2-5% of staff after vaccine mandate takes effect