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BayCare will mandate COVID vaccine for its workers, following new federal rules

The health care firm says workers at its 14 Tampa Bay area hospitals will have to get the jab after President Biden’s order requiring vaccinations at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
BayCare Health System operates a number of hospitals in Tampa Bay.
BayCare Health System operates a number of hospitals in Tampa Bay. [ Times (2012) ]
Published Sep. 9
Updated Sep. 9

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.

Related: Tampa Bay hospitals push COVID vaccine — but won’t mandate it for their workers

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.”

Related: Tampa General has put her kidney transplant on hold; she blames the unvaccinated

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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