Northern Cochise Community Hospital is a critical healthcare safety net for the extended Willcox area, a major employer and community partner as we collectively work to ensure Willcox thrives in years to come.

In recent weeks, there have been questions posed on local social media platforms that we would like to address around three issues: COVID-19 vaccinations, staffing and the hospital tax district.

COVID vaccinations

As hospitals across the country implemented the best practice safety standard of required COVID-19 vaccinations, we received questions from staff as to the hospital’s position on 100% vaccinations. While we have not implemented a final plan or implementation date, we have been open and transparent with staff that NCCH will at some point in the future require vaccination (or an approved waiver) as a condition of employment.

The evidence is clear — vaccination is the most effective way to keep staff and patients from contracting COVID and from developing the most severe forms of illness, including long-term debilitation and death. The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Hospital Association all recommend healthcare employers require COVID-19 vaccination AMA in support of COVID-19 vaccine mandates for health care workers.

As a healthcare provider and employer, it’s our duty to protect our patients and staff utilizing evidence-based best practice for infection control — and vaccination is that best practice. This is consistent with industry employee health practices that require vaccination for influenza; measles, mumps and rubella; and more.

NCCH does not currently require vaccination as a condition of employment. While we are having conversations with staff and the community about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, we have not set an implementation date. To that end, current employees and visiting workers (known as travelers) are not required to be vaccinated. When we implement the requirement, all will be required to comply or to submit a medical or religious exemption.

Staffing

Hospitals across the country are facing a shortage of staff and, periodically, NCCH is no exception. We have brought in several travelers and temporary workers to fill staffing gaps so that our community hospital is able to continue to serve the needs of the Willcox community.

Moving forward, we will continue to develop our core staff while bringing in additional resources. Our hopes and expectations are that through a process of education and engagement, the majority of our core staff will continue to be employed at NCCH for many years to come. Vaccination is required for all new hires.

Partners for Southern Arizona

Earlier this summer, we announced that NCCH had joined TMC HealthCare, a regional nonprofit health system that has cared for residents of the Willcox area for decades. While NCCH is the first point of care, so many in our community rely on TMC when a higher level of care is needed.

While we are part of TMC HealthCare, we are fully focused on serving the needs of Northern Cochise County. All NCCH’s resources and revenues remain in Willcox and will be used to ensure the community has access to excellent hospital and ancillary services. Additionally, TMC has continued to invest in NCCH — we are anticipating receiving new hospital beds in the very near future thanks to TMC.

It’s important to be very clear that decisions regarding vaccination have been made by local leadership and supported by the local board of directors. While consistent with the system’s policies, decisions related to how and when to implement have been made by me. The guiding principle in making the decision is what is best for the health and safety of our staff and what is best for the health and safety of our community.

Our health. Our hospital.

The theme for the campaign in support of ad-valorem tax renewal is our health, our hospital. We selected this because in rural America the health of a community’s hospital is so closely tied to the health of the overall community. We are asking residents of the tax district to Vote Yes to continue this long-standing support for local healthcare.

I joined NCCH in April 2020. One month into the COVID-19 pandemic. I have spent every moment since arriving trying to ensure that the people we serve have access to the care needed through this extraordinary time. I have been humbled to work alongside the incredible staff and to serve you, my neighbors, as we navigate unchartered waters.

There are those who will question our actions, our focus, and our commitment to Willcox on social media. We are committed to being open and transparent with our hospital family and our community today and into the future.

Throughout it all, we continue to focus on our mission to provide for the healthcare needs of the greater Willcox community and Southeast Arizona by providing quality patient care with compassion.

Submitted by NCCH

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