PUEBLO — On Monday, Parkview Health System announced they let go of 56 of their employees who did not get the COVID-19 vaccine before their November 1 deadline.
Parkview Health System has approximately 3,000 employees. The 56 staff members who did not receive the vaccine account for less than 2% of their workforce, according to a representative of the health system.
"We've been monitoring this process since the mandate was announced. And so, throughout this we've had our leadership and directors work on contingency plans for staffing, and we've rolled back elective surgeries. We continue to monitor that," said Racheal Morris, a spokesperson for Parkview Health System.
Morris said the employees came from various departments. "We're sad to see those 56 individuals go, however we do respect everyone's personal and professional decisions... While that still is impactful because staffing across the country in health care settings is tight and very crucial during this time, especially during a pandemic, we're also grateful that it's not exceptionally higher than that," said Morris.
In early October, Parkview Medical Center announced certain non-life threatening surgeries would be delayed as they battle bed shortages and rising COVID-19 cases.
On Monday, Morris said there were 66 people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Parkview Medical Center. She said the hospital is also seeing a high demand for medical care in other areas. "We are a tight house today," said Morris.
Nursing Supervisor Carrie Switser has worked at Parkview Medical Center for around seven years. She described the COVID-19 pandemic as physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging. "Really kind of discouraging and disheartening to see that we couldn't help everybody," Switser recalled.
Switser said she was vaccinated in December of 2020. When she first heard about the possibility of vaccines, she was hesitant before learning more about them. After that, she was "one of the first in line to get it... I'm really grateful for Parkview for getting us that vaccine so quickly," said Switser, who has gotten her booster as well.
Switser said despite the loss of some co-workers, there is a job to be done and patients who need their services. "We still have patients coming in at high rates, and they seem a lot sicker now than they have been before. I mean, our ER is always full, the hospital's always full, so we just have to keep doing what we're doing," said Switser.
We're such a community hospital. These people are like our family. A lot of people who work here have worked here for a long time, so we get to know each other really well. And it's sad to see those people go, it's going to be hard working without them, and keep doing what we're doing. They'll definitely be missed. But I just wish them the best, and hope that maybe they change their minds eventually and decide to get vaccinated and come back and join us.
In July, the UCHealth hospital system set a deadline for 11:59 p.m. on October 1 for all employees to either obtain one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines, or get a medical or religious exemption.
Statewide, UCHealth has approximately 26,500 employees. 119 employees statewide were let go because of the vaccine mandate, which makes up less than 0.5% of their workforce. The 119 figure includes 32 employees from the Colorado Springs area.