Today A News Cafe chats with a registered nurse who reached out to A News Cafe to share some concerns and observations about how things are going at Shasta Regional Medical Center in the wake of increased COVID-19 numbers. Although the nurse has asked to remain anonymous, A News Cafe has confirmed the nurse’s identity, and has vetted the nurse as an employee at Shasta Regional Medical Center.
This piece is especially timely today because the Butte Street corner outside Shasta Regional Medical Center will be the site of a “freedom rally” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. during which healthcare workers and their supporters will protest state-mandated vaccines.
I followed up with the nurse recently with some questions. Here is our conversation:
DC: As a registered nurse at Shasta Regional Medical Center, what are some of your most pressing concerns?
RN: The hospital has been hemorrhaging nursing staff because they have left us so short staffed. From my interactions, I would guess that a majority of the staff at SRMC are unvaccinated. Many of them are refusing for absurd reasons. The word at the hospital is that the admin will allow anyone to refuse the vaccine, and will not question anyone’s reasoning. Here is a direct quote from an email from the CEO, Casey Fatch: ‘In all that is unpredictable right now, you can be assured that your Leadership Team is committed to ensuring each one of your rights, while abiding by the Governor’s Mandate and we will not question either of the exemptions provided by the State. Your relationship with your Medical Provider and your Religion will be respected as well as your personal choices.’
I have personally been told by a dozen staff that they were going to lie to get out of getting the vaccine.
DC: Wow. That’s pretty blatant. I assume you’re vaccinated?
RN: Yes. I got vaccinated with the COVID vaccine for the same reason I get all the recommended vaccines; I want to avoid potentially dangerous illnesses, and I want to do my part to protect those around me. Working in healthcare, especially a hospital, means I am at a higher risk.
DC: That makes sense. So what reasons are your colleagues giving for not getting vaccinated?
RN: The reasons my colleagues give for refusing the vaccine are purely political, not scientific, and are the result of misinformation. I’ve heard some claim the vaccine is making women infertile, that it has microchips in it, or that COVID is greatly exaggerated and there is no need for a vaccine. I’ve also been told that ‘doctors are exaggerating the number of deaths by fraudulently labeling deaths as COVID, rather than the real cause.
Additionally, I frequently hear the statement, ‘I just don’t think there’s been enough research.’
Not surprising, none of those that I’ve spoken with have actually read any of the research on the vaccine, or any other vaccine for comparison. They’re just parroting BS from Facebook and Fox News.
DC: You said you know that some of your colleagues will lie to get around the state vaccine mandates. How would that work, exactly?
RN: Every coworker that has told me they are not going to get it are all lying about having a religious objection. They’re all helping each other fill out the religious exemption form, discussing how to make it appear like they aren’t lying. They’re claiming to have a religious view that prohibits the COVID vaccine only, not all the other vaccines that they willingly accepted. The hospital is gladly going along with them, and is guaranteeing nobody will have to get it, even without a good reason.
DC: So it sounds as if, what you’re saying is true, that it’s relatively easy for those who refuse to be vaccinated to work around the state mandates by claiming a religious exemption. What’s their main objection to the vaccine? Would you characterize them as anti-vaxxers?
RN: These people aren’t anti-vaxxers, or at least they weren’t until this vaccine came out. They’ve mostly received every other vaccine, including the flu shot every year. In fact, nurses are mandated to get almost a dozen vaccines just to get into nursing school. Apparently, being required to get all those vaccines wasn’t a “violation of their rights” but the COVID vaccine mandate is.
DC: Interesting. I wasn’t aware that that many vaccines were required to get into nursing school. I realize that the percentage of physicians who choose to vaccinate is higher than other healthcare workers. But roughly what percentage of combined staff members would you guess are vaccinated at Shasta Regional?
RN: My guess would be 30-50 percent. The majority on my unit are not getting it.
DC: I know Mercy is having similar problems with healthcare workers who refuse the vaccine. Meanwhile, COVID cases are climbing. I’m wondering what the hospital’s plan is to make room for more patients?
RN: The terrible thing is that SRMC has beds available, they just don’t have the staff to care for them. The hospital implemented a hiring freeze during the pandemic and have been eliminating staff. Because of the lack of support and unsafe conditions, many nurses have quit, making the problem even worse. They also put a hold on all raises that were due, and are now refusing to negotiate with the union for a new contract.
DC: Can you describe what it was like to work at the hospital before COVID, versus now?
RN: Things were definitely better prior to COVID. When they started losing money from a reduction in elective surgeries, we started seeing them reducing staff.
DC: What’s your reaction to working alongside unvaccinated colleagues?
RN: I’m frustrated and disappointed that medical professionals are rejecting sound medical advice. I’m also dumbfounded that grown adults can buy into such absurd conspiracy theories.
DC: Has what’s happening at your workplace regarding vaccines made you consider other options for the future?
RN: Many things that are happening, including the vaccine, have me considering other hospitals.
DC: I’m sorry to hear that. It would be the community’s loss to lose you as a nurse. I wish you the very best during this time that is so trying, especially for frontline healthcare workers like yourself. Thank you for your sacrifice and hard work, and for sharing your thoughts with us today. Please stay safe.