To protect their patients and staff, Baptist Health Deaconess Madisonville has required all employees to be fully vaccinated from COVID-19 or submit an approved medical or religious deferral by Oct. 31.

Kristy Quinn, marketing and public relations director for the hospital, said they have asked the staff to receive the first dose of vaccine by Wednesday, but it is not required to meet the deadline.

“Vaccination is a condition of employment, just like many other vaccination requirements we have for the safety of our patients and staff,” she said.

Anyone who is not fully vaccinated or does not have a medical or religious deferral by the October deadline will be terminated, she said. President Joe Biden released a plan on Friday that would require all healthcare workers who receive Medicare and Medicaid funding to be fully vaccinated from COVID-19.

“If anyone plans to stay in healthcare, vaccination is likely to be mandatory,” said Quinn.

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the county, she said the hospital is watching the staff closely for possible exposures that could lead to staff having to be quarantined.

“This is very hard on the remaining staff,” said Quinn.

The biggest concern for Baptist Health is the number of critical care beds available for any patient, not just COVID patients, she said.

Quinn said there were 50 COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Monday, with 13 in the Critical Care Unit. Of those 50 COVID-19 patients, seven are vaccinated and 43 are unvaccinated. In the CCU, one is vaccinated and 12 are unvaccinated. COVID-19 patients make up 40% of the hospital’s total patient population.

The Hopkins County Health Department posted on Facebook that seven Hopkins County residents died over the weekend due to COVID-19. The post said the youngest was in their early 40s, and several young “middle-aged, healthy, working adults” were also hospitalized with COVID-19.

Quinn said the hospital’s Urgent Care and ER are experiencing high volumes of patients in need of testing.

“Each morning there are lines down the sidewalk as people wait for [the Urgent Care] to open,” she said. “We ask the public to seek care in the appropriate location for their symptoms and to show grace with our staff, who are doing their best to provide care to every single person in need as quickly as possible.”

She said the more people who get vaccinated against COVID-19 will result in fewer hospitalizations.

“That will take the strain off our staff and give them a much-needed and well-deserved time to rest,” said Quinn.

The hospital staff has been dealing with the virus for nearly two years, she said, adding that the best prevention against COVID-19 is the “well-tested and proven” vaccine that is available and free to everyone 12-years-old and older.

“We shouldn’t be experiencing these losses,” said Quinn. “Young children are losing their parents. It is OK to change your mind and decide that now is the time to get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.”

She said they have had patients admitted to the hospital who are struggling to breathe and begging for the vaccine but by then it is too late.

On Monday, the Health Department posted information about the booster doses to their Facebook page, saying they had not received any approval or recommendations for COVID-19 booster doses.

“The current vaccines are doing their jobs in reducing transmission, and decreasing hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilations in the vaccinated population,” according to the post. “When we receive the protocols from the ACIP we will notify the public immediately.”

The Health Department encourages everyone to get the vaccine either through them or another vaccinating entity.

To receive a COVID-19 vaccine from the Health Department, call 270-821-5242 ext. 229.

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