PROWERS COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Health care workers choosing to go unvaccinated currently face an uncertain future. The Colorado Board of Health's Vaccine mandate requires health care workers to receive their first dose of the vaccine by Thursday. Yet multiple health care workers tell 13 Investigates they still won't get the vaccine.
According to a letter from administrators, employees at Prowers Medical Center (PMC) in Lamar were told they were supposed to get vaccinated by September 30 or they'd be fired. After a Board of Directors public meeting, the hospital has extended the deadline to the end of October. Unvaccinated employees at PMC still feel that their jobs are in jeopardy.
“The reality is you get the vaccine or you lose your job," says Shelby Casper, a family nurse practitioner at PMC for the last three years.
Casper says she is choosing to go unvaccinated, but she is not an opponent of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"As a medical provider, I do think there is a time and a place for this vaccine. I personally have chosen not to get the vaccine cause I have had COVID-19,” said Casper.
Then there is Colby Cain, a part-time registered nurse covering the night shift about twice a week. Cain is also going without the vaccine and doesn't know if she'll have a job by November.
“It comes with a very hard decision cause I do have a family to take care of. I have a 9-month-old son. I don’t know how he is going to get taken care of if I don’t have a job,” said Cain.
At the public board meeting on Wednesday, PMC's Board of Directors told a crowd of dozens that they couldn't afford to ignore state law and ignore the state board of health's mandate.
"Our number one priority is to make sure we have a hospital, and that we continue to have a license. We can’t put that in jeopardy," said Jacob Chamberlain, a Prowers Medical Center Board member.
PMC CEO Karen Bryant did provide KRDO a statement in regards to their decision to enforce the mandate within their hospital.
“The Administrative Team and Board of Directors at Prowers Medical Center are sensitive to the concerns being expressed by our staff and the citizens of Prowers County in relation to the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates. As a licensed healthcare facility, we intend to operate under and fully comply with the State and Federal vaccine mandate requirements," Bryant's statement said.
According to PMC's Board of Directors, 23 employees at the Lamar hospital applied for a medical or religious exemption to the COVID vaccine. Only one was granted. In a letter to employees at the hospital, the exemption requests were denied by a 'panel, and when those decisions were made, the rejection letters cited the science-based evidence and the medical professional associations that negated the claims made by the employees'.
Connie Gangwish was one of those employees that received a rejection letter after applying for a religious exemption.
“[The letter said] I would be a hindrance to the company and put other people at risk. I wouldn’t be safe,” said Gangwish, a veteran of PMC for more than a decade.
PMC Emergency Room Nurse Anna Ross is vaccinated, but she fears for the hospital's future with the mandate. Ross says her unvaccinated co-workers should have a right to choose or the hospital risks serious staffing shortages.
“We are at risk of losing our entire OBGYN Department," said Ross. "That puts the mother at risk. That puts the child at risk. That puts me at risk, and my coworkers who don’t have a whole lot of experience with that.”
During Wednesday night's board meeting, PMC board members said making vaccines mandatory for their employees was never their first choice, but the risk of losing a license on top of losing out on federal funds from Medicaid and Medicare is not a viable option.