Desoto County News

Olive Branch hospital to require staff vaccinations

Methodist-Olive Branch Hospital is one of the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare facilities where employees are now being required to be fully vaccinated. 

An email late Monday confirmed that Methodist-Olive Branch staff, physicians, and executives must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 31.  

“From the very beginning of the pandemic, we have put care for patients at the forefront of everything we do,” said Michael Ugwueke, President and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. “This new COVID-19 vaccine mandate is no exception. Just as we expect Associates and staff to receive a flu vaccine each year, this is a crucial step in helping to reduce new cases and deaths, and ensure a safe, healing environment for all who enter our doors.”

A Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare news release stated that about half of the network’s 13,000 employees have received a full dosage of a COVID-19 vaccine. The numbers are higher among the network’s physicians and executives.  

Those not vaccinated will have until the end of October to be fully vaccinated and provide proof to that effect. Methodist Le Bonheur’s leadership team has until the end of August to get their first dose.   

Methodist Le Bonheur’s decision is based on the growth of the Delta variant for the COVID-19 virus, a 204 percent increase in cases in Tennessee and the deaths of two pediatric patients from the virus at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.  

The order applies to all employees across hospital and outpatient locations in West Tennessee and North Mississippi, with limited exceptions granted on a case-by-case basis for religious and medical reasons.

Meanwhile, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation, of which Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven is a part of, has not taken a similar step at this time. However, in a statement provided to DeSoto County News, the system is continuing to monitor the system.  

“Considering this responsibility along with the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and the potential for more surges, we are carefully evaluating the need for a vaccine requirement for our entire health care system of 22 hospitals, dozens of medical clinics and more than 19,000 employees in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee,” the statement read. “While we assess what is right for our team and community, we are continuing to respectfully and strongly encourage our staff members to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves, their families and our patients.”

Dr. Lou Ann Woodward, Vice Chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, reported on Twitter Monday morning that there were no available ICU beds in the state. 

Baptist Memorial Health Care, in its statement to DeSoto County News, reminds readers that bed count numbers being quoted are for one specific point in a day, but are not representative of the entire day.  

“Hospital capacity is very fluid because patients are admitted and discharged throughout the day,” the statement said. “So the number of available beds changes often. But like many Mississippi hospitals, Baptist Memorial hospitals are seeing a large number of patients and are very busy. Approximately 25 percent of our hospitalized patients have a COVID-19 diagnosis and often require a higher level of care, which can be taxing on our employees and resources. However, our team of healthcare workers are resilient and have worked tirelessly for more than a year to care for our community.”

The Baptist statement went on to assure that their doors remain open to treat whoever needs care, “and we’re working with other hospitals, along with local, regional and state officials, to share resources and coordinate services. We also encourage our community to support our health care team by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Over the weekend, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported an additional 6,912 positive cases of coronavirus in Mississippi and 28 additional related deaths from the virus.  

DeSoto County’s numbers have grown to 24,090 cases and 286 virus victims. Statewide, the numbers are 365,061 cases and 7,649 deaths.  

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