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Southwest Memorial falls under state vaccination mandate

Dr. Ben Carelock, of Southwest Memorial Hospital, receives a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday. A new state mandate requires health workers to get vaccinated. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Colorado Board of Health passes emergency order for health workers

Under a new Colorado mandate, employees of health care facilities are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including staff at Southwest Memorial Hospital.

In a 6-1 vote Monday, the Colorado Board of Health passed an emergency temporary rule requiring vaccinations for all staff of state-regulated or supported health care organizations.

The mandate applies to workers at all hospitals, nursing homes, medical offices, emergency services, and any health organization that falls under state rules.

Jeanette Filpi, interim CEO for Southwest Health System, informed the Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners about the new rule this week.

The first shots are required by the end of September, and the second shots by the end of October, Filpi said.

Southwest Health System is drawing up policy and procedures for the new requirement for hospital staff.

“We will be rolling that out soon, and will do our best to follow guidelines and take care of our community,” Filpi said.

The new state rule allows waivers for medical or religious reasons.

Of the 405 SHS employees, 271 have been vaccinated, or about 71%, said Marc Meyer, director of SHS pharmacy and infection and prevention control.

There is a risk that health facilities could lose staff over vaccination mandates, officials said. It might spur legal challenges over their constitutionality, said Commissioner Joel Stevenson.

Statewide mandate limits health employees opposed to the vaccine from transferring to another health facility in Colorado. But they could move to work in a state without the mandate.

“We don’t want to lose anybody,” Filpi said.

The vaccine mandate would apply to EMS and ambulance staff delivering patients to the hospital. There is no mandate for patients to be vaccinated.

The staff of SHS’s management company, Community Hospital Corp., fall under the Colorado mandate, and if staff from the Texas corporate office visit Southwest Memorial, they would be required to be vaccinated.