COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Hospital Association is expressing concerns about how the state's health care worker vaccine mandate will be enforced.
Colorado's current vaccine mandate requires all health care workers to get their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by September 30. Health care employees are required to be fully vaccinated by October 31.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said it wants to help hospitals and other health care facilities be in compliance with the new vaccine rule but if facilities will not work with state health leaders they will face citations and possible sanctions that could escalate to a loss of licensure.
The Colorado Hospital Association said while it shares Governor Jared Polis' goal of ensuring all Colorado health care workers are vaccinated against the virus, enforcement of the mandate "needs to be careful and thoughtful."
"Removing clinicians and other support staff in order to maintain compliance with the BOH rule will endanger patients, particularly when health care facilities in Colorado are already facing severe staffing shortages. In extreme cases, it may even mean closing a facility and eliminating health care in a Colorado community or town," the Colorado Hospital Association said in a statement to KRDO.
Scott Bookman, the COVID-19 incident commander for CDPHE said the mandate is in place to protect health.
"Our goal here is to ensure patient safety and this mandate increases vaccination rates which is the quickest way out of this pandemic," Bookman said.
A spokesperson for UCHealth said 99% of its employees are in compliance with the vaccine mandate, but did not provide specific numbers of how many UCHealth workers in Southern Colorado were vaccinated.
Centura Health said 77% of its health care workers at Penrose and St. Francis' hospitals are vaccinated and they are working swiftly to get the number of employees vaccinated up.
In Pueblo at Parkview Medical Center, officials said they've seen roughly a 10% increase in vaccination of employees after the mandate was announced in late August. However, Parkview Medical Center estimates around 20% of its health care workers remain unvaccinated. Healthcare workers at Parkview who didn't get their first dose of Pfizer or Moderna by September 30 could still save their jobs by getting a Johnson and Johnson shot by Halloween, according to Parkview health leaders.
"We are in the process of putting down on paper some contingency plans of how we would deliver care if there was say a 5 to 10 percent loss of workforce or maybe more. We are sorting through those issues. I don't believe Parkview is unique in these challenges. I think every healthcare entity in the state is making such plans," Dr. Sandeep Vijan said.