Southwest Florida’s biggest health care provider said Thursday it will follow new federal rules and mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees.
BayCare, which runs 14 acute-care hospitals in the Tampa Bay area, has about 28,000 employees. The company recently reported that about 45 percent of its workers are unvaccinated.
The announcement comes as President Joe Biden on Thursday instructed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in most health care settings. It would apply to about 17 million health care workers in hospitals and other facilities that receive federal funding for medical care.
“We respect the decision made by our elected official, and BayCare will take the necessary action to comply,” said Chief Executive Officer Tommy Inzina in a statement on the firm’s website.
Inzina said BayCare has encouraged its workers to get vaccinated, but was hesitant to mandate them in case it led to a significant number of medical staffers quitting. The hospitals are short-staffed and straining to deal with roughly 1,100 COVID-19 patients, about 40 percent more than during the 2020 pandemic peak.
“As the region’s largest provider of health care, BayCare has faced a conundrum,” he said. “As much as we would like to mandate the vaccine for our team members, in this moment with the strain on our team, we believed a mandate could have a negative impact on health care access for our community.”
Most other local hospital chains have also shied away from a vaccine mandate. One exception is Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, which in June gave staff until Sept. 1 to get fully immunized.
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