United Regional CEO, local lawyer explain vaccine mandate

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — United Regional joins the list of companies that will require all staff and providers to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Effective Monday, November 1, all employees and medical staff at United Regional will be required to have the vaccine.

“For this decision to have political overtones, that was not the intent,” Phyllis Cowling, President and CEO of United Regional Health Care System, said. “It was from a healthcare perspective and from a staffing perspective.”

Every single employee in the United Regional Health Care System must be vaccinated. Unless they have an approved disability, religious exemption or have recently tested positive for covid-19, employees including temps and students must get the shot.

“I know some people will disagree with it, maybe a lot of people,” Cowling said. “But we are also trying to take the step that we feel is appropriate for our responsibilities as a health organization for this community.”

Cowling said with the FDA recently approving the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and up, that strongly influenced the hospital’s decision to make this mandate.

For employees who may seek potential litigation, unless they fall under the criteria already set, they may be out of luck.

“If you’re under a collective bargaining agreement that somehow allows you to refuse to get a vaccine, which is unlikely in Texas because we don’t have that many unions, then you’re pretty much gonna have to get the vaccine,” Wichita Falls attorney Kathleen Brown said. “You do have a choice; you don’t have to get the vaccine, but your choice may not be the one you want, which is you have to seek employment elsewhere.”

With United Regional seeing more 100 Covid hospitalizations and very few beds available for any patient, Cowling fears the worst may be yet to come.

“We know what it takes to work our way through the surge, and I’m hopeful, but not confident, that this surge will not be long lasting,” Cowling said. “If it extends for a period, that’s where my fear comes in.”

Fear is setting in, and more measures are being made as hospitals are stretched to their limit by Covid-19.

Cowling said she thinks more than 50% of employees are currently vaccinated.

There are plenty of places where unvaccinated employees can still receive the vaccine.

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