Meadville Medical Center (file)

 

Meadville Medical Center is reminding the public to comply to its code of conduct for masking and other requirements when entering any of its facilities.

The medical center requires people who go into any of its facilities to wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times and practice other prevention efforts like physical distancing — even if they are fully vaccinated.

The hospital officials stress cooperation is necessary to help the hospital keep all patients, staff and visitors safe — whether they are vaccinated or not.

"We've had some instances of some not wearing masks, not being appropriate in certain situations," Dr. Kevin Kraeling, the hospital's medical director, said of some visitors. "We definitely want the patients to have their loved ones with them at a time of need."

Patient access to family visitation has been a concern throughout the pandemic not only for the patient and family, but also the hospital, according to Kraeling and Philip Pandolph, the hospital's chief executive officer.

"We're just trying to keep everybody safe," Pandolph said. "We've had some instances where people have come in not feeling well and it's been evident when they've been approached (by staff). It's a priority for us to continue to give access to visitors, but we have to be extra vigilant."

It's a concern now — especially with the rise in COVID-19 cases within the county, Kraeling said.

Meadville Medical Center COVID-19 admission statistics for the month of August show there were 47 total admissions with 44 of those admitted being unvaccinated against COVID-19 while the other three admissions were vaccinated.

Crawford County added a total of 183 COVID-19 positive cases Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, with 60 of those reported Friday.

"It's just simple public health steps that are to be taken — most importantly wearing a mask, socially distancing when able to, good hand hygiene," Kraeling said.

The past 18 months of dealing with the pandemic have been a challenge for all and people are pandemic weary, Pandolph said.

"(But) we're not going to tolerate people being disrespectful or mean to staff," he said. "Everybody's doing their best to make a difficult situation as manageable as possible."

The new federal mandates on vaccination announced Thursday also will have an impact on the medical center.

The new mandates require the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid — like MMC and its affiliates — also will have to be fully vaccinated. It means all of the approximately 1,400 employees of MMC and its affiliates will need to be vaccinated.

In the MMC system, which include hospitals in Meadville and Titusville, only about 70.5 percent of the staff have been vaccinated, slightly above where it was in mid-August. Back in February, only about half of its 1,400 employees had received the vaccine.

"We will comply and we understand it will be enforced through OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration)," Pandolph said.

The hospital is working on a staff vaccination plan, but also is awaiting guidelines as the mandate was just announced Thursday.

"We fully support anything that promotes more broad vaccination for our workforce," Pandolph said. "We will do everything we can to comply. It's not an option for us."

Meadville Medical Center still is facing a staffing shortage, Pandolph acknowledged.

"Right now, like other businesses, we're short of staff — people are at a premium," he said. "We're hoping through appropriate education, appropriate notices and the appropriate exemptions, those (staff) that aren't vaccinated, we'll get them vaccinated."

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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