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The Numbers at the Med School – at Risk of the Vaccine Mandate

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 9:55 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - We’ve heard from University Medical Center that vaccine mandates could severely impact the workforce there with nearly 1 in 4 not vaccinated.

So what about the Texas Tech School of Medicine and all the branches of the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.

How will they be impacted?

The answer is…it’s complicated.

The foundation of TTUHSC is based on science. Dr. Steven Berk, Dean of the Medical School, says that is evident by the overall number of physicians - including those in training - who have already rolled up a sleeve for the covid vaccine.

He says, “There are very few of our physicians that are refusing the vaccine. About 410 out of 420 physicians are going to be vaccinated.”

That leaves 10 physicians who are not vaccinated yet.

Also, there are 13 residents out of 240 who are still unvaccinated.

Dr. Berk says, “I’m very concerned about 13 residents, and even five or 10 physicians. They’re individuals that have tremendous training and we don’t want to lose anybody.”

As for the students, 36 are still not vaccinated out of 720 medical students in all.

Dr. Berk says, “To put this back in perspective, it would be a terrible thing for an unvaccinated physician, or an unvaccinated resident to give COVID to a vulnerable patient in the clinic or in the hospital.”

That’s where it gets complicated because he says some employees of the Health Sciences Center who have no interaction with patients are not required to get the vaccine.

This, while the OSHA vaccine mandate for any place with more than 100 workers... is still hung up in court.

So for now, Dr. Berk says the mandate is directed at hospitals like UMC and Covenant along with any federally funded clinics like the Larry Combest Wellness Center in Lubbock.

Dr. Darrin D’agostino is Provost at TTUHSC, overseeing its many branches and schools that stretch across Texas.

He has spent a lot of hours working with attorneys to learn how TTUHSC can follow laws from the governor’s office and from the White House. One thing is for sure, he says, “It’s highly confusing. That’s the problem.”

He adds, “But at the same time, we have to do right for our patients. And we think that there are ways that we can navigate this so that we’re not losing employees, that’s the last thing we want to do.”

Navigate the system, meaning ‘shifting’ some positions so the unvaccinated are not working close to patients.

He says, “The question is how many of our employees need to be shifted if we’re going to do that. And if we have enough places for them to do that, and for how long?”

Also, there is a real concern for our outlying clinics. Dr. D’agostino explains, “Our rural communities are vulnerable. We don’t have enough providers in those areas.”

Nationwide, the mandates are forcing some clinicians to make career changes. He says, “Some are retiring early. Some are choosing to go into private practice. Some are choosing to go into other practices that fit their style, and what they believe.”

Both men agree these are difficult times but we need to learn how to live with Covid 19 because the virus is here to stay.

Dr. Berk sympathizes with those in the community who are at high risk, saying “The elderly, those with heart disease, lung disease, they just can’t get Covid from a healthcare worker. That’s just a tragedy and it can’t happen.”

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