Hospital does not require COVID vaccine due to staffing shortages in Arkansas

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:35 PM EDT
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PIGGOTT, Ark. (KAIT/Gray News) - The Piggott Community Hospital doesn’t require the COVID-19 vaccine for staff.

Executive director James Magee says being understaffed and having fears of losing too many nurses played a significant role in the decision.

“It’s the worst staffing challenge that I’ve seen,” Magee said. “It’s a daily challenge to make sure we have the staff on different shifts that we need.”

Magee told KAIT that as a small, rural hospital, finding nursing staff is a challenge. It’s why his hospital is one of the few not requiring staff to get the COVID vaccine.

“From a personal standpoint, I would like to see everybody vaccinated,” Magee said.

He says he’s unsure how many they’d lose if they required the shot, but it would definitely be some.

The hospital has around 60 to 70 nurses and needs at least seven to eight more to handle the strain.

“Mandating that really works a hard step on the smaller hospitals, because we don’t have an extra pool of nurses to draw from out there,” Magee said.

He says it is hard to hire folks in the health care field, because they have many employment options.

The hospital hasn’t seen a lot of nurses leave because of the added stress of the pandemic. While nurses aren’t leaving his hospital, they are working extra shifts and longer hours, putting a financial strain on the hospital.

“It shoots a hole in our budget, no question about that, but you get to the point where you just don’t have the people,” Magee said.

The hospital usually does not care for critically ill patients. It typically sends about 50 patients a month to larger hospitals. Because of the pandemic, finding a bed elsewhere has been a problem, so doctors and nurses have cared for the sicker patients.

Magee says his hospital is preparing for this trend to continue, even if other hospitals continue to see further staffing shortages.

“Our hospital has just recently begun a specialist program via telemedicine,” he said.

That will allow them to treat sicker patients with respiratory, cardiology, neurology issues and infectious diseases.

Piggott Community Hospital is a 25-bed facility. Right now, they’re taking care of anywhere from five to 12 COVID patients daily.

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