ENTERPRISE — Wallowa Memorial Hospital is hopeful that by the Oct. 18 vaccine deadline, the vast majority of its staff will be vaccinated or have filed for an exemption.
Brooke Pace, the communications director for WMH, said the percentage of staff members electing to be vaccinated or file an exemption is fluid, and “improving day to day.” She anticipates this continuing until the deadline is reached in just under three weeks.
“We anticipate hitting 98% compliance with the mandate and/or exception requirements as spelled out by the state of Oregon,” Pace said. “For the small percentage of people who do qualify for an exemption, extra precautions of increased screening and weekly testing will be in place to ensure the continued safety of our patients and staff.”
Pace said the hospital is expecting it will lose a “handful” of staff members, but should still be able to offer all its current services.
“We are actively recruiting replacement staff in anticipation of these losses,” she said.
The Joseph Fire Department, though, may be in a different situation.
Jeffrey Wecks, chief of the Joseph Fire Department, said he’s not certain how many of the staff of 17 volunteer firefighters are vaccinated, but he knows a portion isn’t.
“It’ll definitely impact some of us, probably,” he said. “I don’t know how many for sure.”
The fire department staff has to be vaccinated, Wecks said, due to the fact it provides direct patient care through Emergency Medical Services. Those who don’t get vaccinated are going to select the alternative.
“I think everybody who is not vaccinated is going to file an exemption,” he said.
If any exemptions were declined, though, Wecks anticipates he would see members of the fire and medical teams walk.
“It puts us in a hard spot if we lost any more volunteers, especially in the summertime,” he said. “A lot of our guys work for ODF or the Forest Service.”
That potential loss, should it come, would increase the need for something that is already often done — recruitment.
“We’re always looking for volunteers. That is just an ongoing thing,” he said. “We never seem to get enough of them. We just do what we do, I guess. If not enough people operate, we do it with the shortest staff we can. … We can only do as much as we can.”
The 21 members of the Enterprise Fire Department — 20 of whom are volunteers — won’t be impacted by the mandate, according to Fire Chief Paul Karvoski.
“It doesn’t affect the volunteer fire department unless you are doing patient care as an EMT,” he said, explaining his understanding of the mandate. “Joseph is a different story because they run medical with the ambulance.
“We should be fine on that part,” he said.
The EFD would be severely impacted if, in the future, all fire crews are mandated to be vaccinated.
Karvoski said if that happens, “I am going to lose 80% of my firefighters. There’s only five or six down there that I know (are vaccinated).”
He said he is not a fan of the mandates.
“If you want to get vaccinated, go get vaccinated. (If) you don’t, you don’t,” he said. “That’s my stance.”
Wallowa County Sheriff Joel Fish said at the present time, law enforcement is not impacted by any mandates.