‘People will die waiting for medical care’: Respiratory therapist says vaccine mandates will further stretch staffing shortages

SPOKANE, Wash. — Healthcare workers are required to get vaccinated or could risk losing their job, but some say they’ll walk away before getting vaccinated.

Sherin Davis has been a respiratory therapist for 12 years. She works at Sacred Heart and has been taking care of COVID patients since the pandemic started. However, she says she doesn’t want the vaccine for medical, personal and religious reasons. She plans to file an exemption but doesn’t know if it’ll be accepted. Now, she’s facing the possibility of losing her job.

“I’ve been doing that since February 2020, and I have not gotten sick. I have not gotten another patient sick,” Davis said. “I don’t need a vaccine to continue doing my job. I know in my department, there are about 30 respiratory therapists that do not want to get this vaccine.”

She says she’ll take all other precautions to keep her job, like wearing a mask and PPE while also getting tested regularly.

She’s even more frustrated by the mandate because healthcare workers are critically needed. A 2021 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey found nearly 30-percent of health care workers are considering leaving their profession altogether, and these jobs aren’t easy to fill. She says fewer people working means more patients could be in danger.

“This is a huge issue, and people will die waiting for the medical care,” she said.

She says she’s disagreed with patient’s choices throughout her career but always allowed them to make the final decision. She still cared for them the same way, but it was their choice to decide what medical procedures they received.

“We can’t force other people to do something against their body because we’re afraid. It’s just not right,” Davis said. “Whether they chose it for religious belief or just personal belief, it still doesn’t matter. We still take care of them. We still braid their hair. That’s still our job, and that’s going to be taken away from us. It just breaks my heart.”

COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the area with the Spokane Regional Health District reported 326 new cases on Tuesday. As hospital cases continue to climb, the majority of the people filling the beds are unvaccinated.

Editor’s Note: 4 News Now reached out to Sacred Heart on these potential staffing concerns and how they would fill potential vacancies, but they didn’t have a comment at this time. We will update this story once we hear back.

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