AVH posts job openings to replace unvaccinated employees

Hospital reports 100% vax rate among doctors, 97% overall

Aspen Valley Hospital officials reported a 97% inoculation rate among its staff as of Monday, while 14 open positions are being advertised for employees vacating their jobs by opting out of the hospital’s vaccination mandate.

Hospital CEO David Ressler’s update to the hospital’s board of directors at their monthly meeting, which was held virtually, came after AVH announced in September that employees had until Oct. 31 to get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or they would be terminated. Employees can retain their job if they opt out for religious or medical reasons.

The unvaccinated employees were notified last week that their jobs are being posted, Ressler said.

“They are a mix of full- and part-time and what we call PRN (on-call employees), … and the fact is everyone of them is important to us, and they have been serving our organization and our community,” Ressler said. “And it’s very sad if that is the choice they make to not become vaccinated, and we’ll have to replace their positions.”

Ressler said the employees can still get fully vaccinated by the deadline date by getting the Johnson & Johnson single dose.

“The good news for them is we do have J&J vaccinations still available, and because it’s a single shot they can receive their vaccination and still meet the deadline of Oct. 31, so we highly hope and encourage that that is the choice our staff will make,” he said.

Around the time the hospital announced its vaccination policy to employees in early to mid-September, 89% of its employees were fully vaccinated. AVH’s policy followed suit with the state board of health’s mandate passed Aug. 30 requiring all hospital and health care workers be fully vaccinated by Halloween.

At Monday’s meeting, both Ressler and chief of staff Dr. Catherine Bernard reported that the hospital’s entire body of physicians is fully vaccinated. That combined with the current overall rate of 97% is something the community can take notice of, Ressler said.

“It goes without the saying that if the entire community were at this level of vaccination status and those that visit us, for our community COVID would be a problem of the past,” Ressler said. “So it’s something we can all aspire to as a community and all communities across the country.”

AVH has given approximately 100 booster shots to 120 eligible employees over course of three clinics, while the remaining staffers received boosters elsewhere, said Elaine Gerson, the hospital’s chief operating officer.

AVH also is back in the “comfortable” zone as it pertains to the hospital’s ability to handle patients and also transfer them to regional medical care facilities, something Ressler said bodes well for the community, but he also noted the 25-bed facility’s vulnerability due to its size.

“We’re so small that it doesn’t take much for us to migrate from being comfortable to not being comfortable, to having to move into the cautious status,” he said.

The hospital entered a cautious status last month mainly due to the regional availability of acute care and intensive beds. AVH also was seeing a higher than usual volume of patients with COVID-19, chiefly the delta variant.

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