RCH not requiring vaccines for staff

As some hospitals around the state implement vaccine mandates for their workers, Russell County Hospital CEO Patrick Branco said he has no plans to implement a vaccine mandate at RCH.

Somewhere between 50-60 percent of the staff at RCH has been vaccinated against COVID-19 and Branco said he encourages the staff to get the vaccine, but has stopped short of mandating it for employment at the hospital. With such a large percentage of workers unvaccinated, such a mandate is impractical.

Aside from that, Branco said it’s a matter of respecting his employees that turns him away from bringing in such a mandate.

“What do I do with them if they have religious, personal, or medical reason not to get the vaccine?” Branco said. “Do I punish them? No, I place too high of a value on them and find a way to maintain the safety of our patients and our coworkers.”

Branco said during a roundtable discussion Friday with Sen. Rand Paul that several hospital employees have stated they have reservations about the vaccine due to it lacking full FDA approval.

As of now, the COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have been granted emergency use from the FDA. Some reports indicate that the Pfizer vaccine could receive full FDA approval in the coming weeks.

But even if the vaccine receives full FDA approval, Branco said no plans exist to implement a mandate to receive the vaccine at RCH. Hospital administration said there will be a plan put into place to ensure the safety of healthcare workers at the hospital, along with patients and visitors. That could include measures like weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated staff, although nothing has been put in place for certain.


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Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for LakerCountry.com and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.