TCMH photo
Texas County Memorial Hospital Credit: Houston Herald

A mandatory coronavirus vaccination deadline of Dec. 5 looms ahead, Texas County Memorial Hospital board members heard at their monthly meeting last Tuesday. It has since been halted.

On Monday, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction related to the mandate. Missouri had joined 10 states in opposing the measure.

Chris Strickland, TCMH chief executive officer, explained that the hospital has plans in place to stay in compliance with the current Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Covid vaccine mandate.

“We are working closely with our hospital staff to ensure they are able to retain their jobs,” Strickland said. “Some employees have chosen to proceed with receiving the vaccination due to the mandate, and other employees seek medical or religious exemptions.”

Exemptions are based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and are reviewed weekly by a hospital-based committee on a case-by-case basis.

According to Strickland, the current compliance percentage at the hospital with approved exemptions is 72.6 percent.  The hospital placed a Nov. 29 deadline for submission of the exemptions for committee review before the injunction was granted.   

TCMH has a contingency plan should the facility lose too many unvaccinated employees. TCMH is prepared to scale back services if necessary to maintain operations at the hospital, clinics, and ambulance bases.

“We agree that the best defense against this virus is the vaccine, so we highly encourage everyone including our employees to get vaccinated.” Strickland said. “However, we will fight for our employees and their rights.”

Also at the meeting, Strickland introduced Jessica Gettys to the board of trustees. Gettys is the new pharmacy director at TCMH.  She has worked as a pharmacist at the hospital since 2018. 

“We are excited to have Jessica in this new role,” Strickland said. “She has already begun making rounds with the physicians discussing medicine concerns and suggestions while establishing better care for our patients.”

For October, Linda Pamperien, chief financial officer, reported that inpatient and outpatient revenues were up, and expenses were down.

“With the increase in revenue and overall expenses being lower, the hospital ended the month of October with a positive bottom line of $224,265 and a year-to-date loss of $703,628,” Pamperien said.

Outpatient Covid antibody infusions continue to go well at the hospital and demand for the service is increasing, according to Strickland. “The infusions really seem to help patients not be as sick and keep them out of the hospital,” Strickland said.
“Due to demand, we will be offering the infusions four days a week instead of the current two days,” Strickland said, adding, “We are pleased to offer this service to our community.”

Magnetic resonance imaging, commonly referred to as MRI, is not a new service to TCMH, but installation of a new MRI unit is now complete.  The MRI machine at TCMH was due for an upgrade which began earlier this year.  For the past few weeks, patients have used a mobile MRI unit based at the hospital while waiting for the new unit’s installation.

Strickland noted that the new MRI machine has a larger “bore” which makes for a more comfortable fit for patients. “The radiology staff is thrilled with the image quality, and they are excited to have the latest technology available for their patients,” Strickland said. 

Jeff Gettys, TCMH Healthcare Foundation director, provided as overview of current foundation activities including the online auction to benefit TCMH Hospice of Care.  Gettys noted that Hospice of Care will also benefit from a “Christmas Tree Penny Drive” sponsored by D&L Florist in Houston.

“D&L has a room full of different decorated trees, and the public is invited to view the trees and vote for their favorite trees with money,” Gettys explained. “All proceeds will also benefit Hospice of Care.”

Present at the meeting were Strickland; Jessica Gettys; Pamperien; Jeff Gettys; Helania Wulff, director of public relations; Courtney Owens, quality director; Jonathan Beers, DO, chief of staff; Renina Pearce, medical staff coordinator; board members, Dr. Jim Perry, OD; Jay Loveland; Joleen Durham; and Steve Pierce.

To accommodate schedules around the holidays, the December meeting of the TCMH Board of Trustees is noon, Tuesday, Jan. 4, in the Jayson Gentry Community Safe Room.  Due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, persons may attend the meeting via teleconference by calling 417-967-1236 to be placed into the teleconference meeting.

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