United Regional Health Care System has slightly delayed their timetable, but still plans to move forward with their COVID-19 vaccine requirement for staff, employees and medical staff members .
The original vaccine mandate was set to become effective Nov. 1.
In September, URHCS said they were nearing the "high-water mark" of COVID patients that was seen in December 2020.
“This was a very difficult decision,” said Phyllis Cowling, President and CEO of the hospital after their initial vaccine mandate statement in September. “I recognize the political and cultural climate of our community, and I realize that feelings run strong on both sides of the vaccine divide.”
That date was pushed back to Dec. 1, as their deadline for requiring the vaccine.
The health care system said in a statement they later adjusted their effective date to Sunday, Dec. 5.
According to the health care system, after the effective date, all unvaccinated staff without either an approved exemption or a reported vaccine deferral, will not be allowed to work.
“United Regional made the decision to require the vaccine before any governmental mandates were announced, and we continue to believe that it is the right thing to do for those who entrust us with their care,” URHCS said in their statement.
URHCS first announced this fall that they would be requiring the COVID vaccine. The stance caused backlash among some staff and community members.
Demonstrators protesting the mandate have rallied at the hospital several times since the announcement.
An online petition was also started in September, which professes displeasure with the vaccine mandate. To date, it has 2,839 virtual signatures.
Approximately 95 percent of their staff are currently vaccinated or have an approved exemption, URHCS said.
URHCS has approximately 2,200-2,300 employees and 300-350 people on the medical staff. Given those figures, up to 132 people could lose their jobs at the health care system if they are not vaccinated, or receive a qualified exemption, by the effective date Sunday.
“We will continue moving forward confidently fulfilling our role, responsibility, and privilege as the healthcare leader for our community,” said URHCS.
This article originally appeared on Wichita Falls Times Record News: United Regional commits to COVID vaccine requirement for employees