Georgia healthcare workers face vaccination deadline amid staff shortages

HALL COUNTY, Ga. — Georgia hospitals are facing a looming deadline to have employees vaccinated, and now some worry about new worker shortages.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan was in Hall County, where hospitals like Northeast Georgia Medical Center are concerned about losing even more nurses and hospital staff.

President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is still in effect for healthcare workers, who will have to have had at least one vaccine shot or an exemption by Feb. 14 or face termination.

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Many hospitals are in critical condition when it comes to staff shortages, especially among nurses.

Matt Caseman, the CEO of the Georgia Nursing Association, said he thinks there will be some health care workers who lose their jobs.

“I don’t think it’s going to be sizeable, but there are going to be some,” Caseman said.

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The head of the GNA, which represents nearly 4,000 nurses, can’t predict how many nurses will choose to quit or be fired because of the vaccine mandate.

But the prospect of losing even a small number of them isn’t good.

“We support the mandate obviously, because we want to keep patients and individuals and the public safe, but unfortunately, there may be some that leave because of this,” Caseman said.

One health care worker said he’s fully vaccinated, but he’s not fond of the mandate.

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“I think it goes against our constitutional rights,” he said. “I think it should be left up to the individual as it relates to his or her own health.”

The Northeast Georgia Health System said about 80% of its workers are vaccinated. Another 15 have exemptions.

Officials said about 250 employees are holding out or working on getting an exemption.

Dr. John Delzell with the Northeast Georgia Health System said he hopes not to lose too many people.

“Hopefully, the vast majority of people will have a valid reason not to have, or have their vaccination, so their won’t be many people who have to be terminated,” Delzell said. “That’s our goal.”