(KMOV.com) – Complaints are coming into News 4 from frontline healthcare workers at BJC Healthcare hospitals who claim they’re being forced to wait weeks to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
An intensive care unit (ICU) nurse who treats COVID-19 patients daily at a BJC hospital spoke to News 4, but asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
“We’ve put our literal blood, sweat and tears into trying to help this community and it’s so heartbreaking that this is the thanks we’re seemingly getting,” she said.
At the heart of the problem is the decision to prioritize employees older than 40. Senior vice president and chief clinical officer, Clay Dunagan, addressed the decision in a statement released to News 4.
“BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine ‘s vaccine distribution model was based on CDC recommendations and a painstaking review of risk factors to ensure we protect our caregivers most at-risk of suffering adverse effects of COVID-19.”
In response to the vaccine distribution plan, a change.org online petition has been started with the title “Help frontline nurses at BJC get vaccinated!”
The petition directly address the consequences of targeting older workers when it comes to getting the vaccine first. It says, “the vast majority of people working with COVID patients –mainly people in their 20″s and 30’s–are amongst the last to receive the vaccine.”
Another ICU nurse who treats COVID-19 patients at a different BJC hospital said secretaries and administrators who don’t care for COVID-19 patients have already received their first dose of the vaccine. She said, in the meantime, many who work in COVID-19 ICU wards are still waiting for the opportunity to book an appointment for the vaccine.
“So, there will be a large number of people who are fully vaccinated before I am even able to make my first appointment for my first vaccine,” she said.
The fallout from the vaccine prioritization plan has apparently caught the attention of administrators at Barnes Jewish Hospital. In an email sent out Sunday evening and obtained by News 4, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Katie Henderson wrote:
“Dear Residents and Fellows: We want you to know that we are aware of the concerns raised by some of you regarding the vaccine distribution plan.”
The email goes onto say:
“The next round of vaccine emails for those under age 40 will go out later this week and will be prioritized based on those working in COVID-concentrated areas.”
Employees must wait to receive an email that gives them the capability to go online and book a time to receive the vaccine. The emails also stated that a leadership team worked all weekend on a strategy to roll out the next wave of emails.
By Sunday evening, the online petition had over 800 signatures.
Below is the entire statement on the vaccination plan from BJC Healthcare:
“BJC HealthCare and Washington University School of Medicine ‘s vaccine distribution model was based on CDC recommendations and a painstaking review of risk factors to ensure we protect our caregivers most at-risk of suffering adverse effects of COVID-19.
First and foremost, we are giving priority to staff who interact with patients. That means everybody being offered a vaccine at this time has patient interaction – including doctors, nurses, housekeepers, food service workers, technicians and more. Any hospital administrator who receives vaccine is only eligible to do so because they also deliver patient care. Within this patient-facing priority group, we are scheduling in descending order of age because research shows a higher risk of mortality among those caregivers over 40.
Further, due to the effective and vigilant use of PPE, we are seeing very few cases of employee exposures from working with COVID-19 patients.
We expect to offer vaccines to every member of our team in a patient-facing role in the coming weeks.
Given the dynamic nature of the vaccine supply, we will be constantly re-evaluating our approach moving forward to ensure we are prioritizing vaccinations in the most equitable manner possible.
We recognize this is a stressful time and are extremely grateful to all of our caregivers for their tireless efforts to keep our patients and our community safe. We’ve shared these plans internally through town hall meetings and ongoing employee communications and feel confident the plan we have in place is the most effective means to protect our entire workforce.”
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