The Baker County Board of Commissioners declared a local emergency today. The declaration states the Baker County Incident Management Team determined beginning October 18, Baker County will be unable to provide for pre-hospital emergency response and Saint Alphonsus Medical Center will be unable to provide basic hospital care as a result of staffing shortages when the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for medical staff goes into effect.
The declaration requested the Governor address the state’s vaccine mandates, “to prevent further erosion of the vital public health and safety workforce”, or provide resources necessary to protect the citizens and visitors of Baker County, along with users of the state highway system.
“The impending deadline for all healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by October 18 has led to a series of difficult choices. We can’t head into a situation where there are not enough responders available to handle medical events throughout the County, including those that happen on the highways and interstate. We also cannot accept a situation where the hospital doesn’t have sufficient staffing to provide basic hospital care. Our responsibility is to the health and safety of our community, and we have to come up with options for the inevitable times when accidents or health emergencies will occur,” Commissioner Mark Bennett said.
The declaration outlines how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exhausted many providers of core public services, including first responders and healthcare providers. The recent rise in COVID-19 cases has further strained those services. The mandate for health care workers to be fully vaccinated by October 18 is resulting in “significant numbers of the exhausted workforce” to leave employment, resulting in a situation where there will not be enough remaining personnel to provide the basic level of pre-hospital emergency care and hospital care that’s needed.
County Commissioners have pledged to continue working with state and local partners on solutions to maintain health services throughout the county. The full declaration is attached.