LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As part of an investigation into how many hospital caregivers in the area had themselves been immunized against COVID-19, FOX 16 Investigates sent the 13 biggest hospitals in central Arkansas a survey with five questions about vaccination rates for employees.

Surveys were sent to UAMS, Baptist Health, CHI St. Vincent, Veteran’s Hospital, Arkansas Heart Hospital, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Little Rock, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Conway Regional Medical Center, White River Medical Center, Unity Health, Saline Memorial Hospital, St. Mary’s Regional Health System and National Park Medical Center.  

Of the 15 hospitals that were sent surveys, eight hospitals replied, with seven answering the survey questions and one providing a separate statement.

Here are the questions, as well as the answers from the hospitals.

1. Are you requiring any employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19? If so, who?

UAMS: Not at this time. 

Baptist Health: We currently do not mandate the vaccine for our employees, but have not ruled out a mandate in the future.  

CHI St. Vincent: No. 

Veteran’s Hospital: We are observing social distancing by holding meetings virtually, and we have moved to require FDA-approved masks instead of allowing cloth coverings.  Staff are asked to call in at the very first sign of symptoms and get tested right away.  We are taking all precautions to protect our staff and Veterans.
*Note as part of a federal mandate all Veteran’s Hospital employees who provide bedside care to patients are required to be vaccinated.  

White River Medical Center: No. 

Unity Health: No. 

Children’s Hospital: With safety as our top priority, we are implementing the following: 

  1. By August 20, all Arkansas Children’s leaders (managers, directors, vice presidents, senior vice presidents and executive vice presidents) must receive a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.        
  2. Beginning August 16, all new Arkansas Children’s employment OFFERS will require newemployeesto receive a first dose by their start date and a second dose within 30 days of employment. 

2. Are you tracking COVID-19 vaccination rates for employees? 

UAMS: Yes. 

Baptist Health: Yes. There are some who may not have received their vaccine at Baptist Health and may not currently be counted.  

CHI St. Vincent: Yes. To maintain an up-to-date assessment on the current numbers of our ministry healthcare staff who have been vaccinated, CHI St. Vincent is currently working with our national partners on a new self-reporting platform that would also account for coworkers vaccinated at any secondary locations. At present, all vaccinated coworkers at CHI St. Vincent are provided with a unique badge that openly identifies their vaccination status among other healthcare staff as well as any patients and visitors to our facilities. 

Veteran’s Hospital: Yes. 

White River Medical Center: Yes. 

Unity Health: Yes. 

Children’s Hospital: Arkansas Children’s is tracking COVID-19 vaccination rates for all employees across our system. 

3. If yes to question 2, what are the current numbers of employees vaccinated? If possible we’d appreciate a breakdown of categories of employees ie doctors, nurses, administrative staff.  

UAMS: 87% are vaccinated. 

Baptist Health: 78% of employees are fully vaccinated. We continue to urge our staff and the general public to take the vaccine as an important step to provide additional protection from the serious consequences of COVID-19, both for themselves and for others. We feel the best defense against COVID is getting the vaccine. 

CHI St. Vincent: According to CHI St. Vincent’s most recent assessment, more than 3,800 coworkers had been vaccinated against COVID-19, but as with any large organization, there is a natural turnover of staff as coworkers retire and others join our ministry. To maintain an up-to-date and ongoing assessment on the current number of ministry healthcare staff who have been vaccinated, CHI St. Vincent is working with our national partners on a new self-reporting platform that would also account for coworkers vaccinated at any secondary locations. Our current staff count sits at approximately 4,200 coworkers. 

Veteran’s Hospital: 84.26% of our staff have been vaccinated. We don’t currently break down the vaccination populations among employees. 

White River Medical Center: 53.7% as of July 28. 

Unity Health: Hospital-wide, about 50% of staff are fully vaccinated. Our physician vaccination rate is about 96%. 

Children’s Hospital: As of today, 76% of our team has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Arkansas Children’s leaders will lead by example and reach a 100% vaccination rate by September 30, 2021. Our leadership team is 93% vaccinated as of today. 

4. How have you disseminated information about COVID-19 vaccines to employees? 

UAMS: Through twice-weekly UAMS announcements, special UAMS announcement emails, weekly update email, digital signs, Intranet, Chancellor announcements/emails, signage, Student and Employee Health Services, HR onboarding, videos, social media, Town Hall meetings, media outlets, etc. 

Baptist Health: Information about the COVID-19 vaccine is regularly communicated to our employees utilizing all forms of communications such as our daily Huddles, employee newspaper, internal mobile app, department meetings, and emails. etc.  

CHI St. Vincent: CHI St. Vincent encourages vaccination against COVID-19 among our staff and the vast majority of coworkers across our ministry have been vaccinated. CHI St. Vincent has seen a very positive response to the vaccination effort among our staff. The health and safety of our patients, visitors, staff and healthcare providers are our highest priorities as we continue to provide critical care to our communities. The COVID-19 virus will likely be with us for a long time and we will all need to remain vigilant in slowing the spread through public safety measures, masking and vaccinations.

Veteran’s Hospital: Every week. We produce a weekly staff COVID-19 update with information and opportunities.  

White River Medical Center: Employee Facebook Group, Online Employee Education, Email, Department Meetings, Signage/flyers in breakrooms, Vaccination Events 

Unity Health: (see full interview with Dr. Roddy Lochala) 

Children’s Hospital: We have been sharing information and education with employees since before the vaccine was available. We’ve recently launched a campaign intended to surpass 90% compliance across our system, drawing on the stories and examples of employees who have already taken the vaccine. 

5. Are there any methods you’re using to provide information and facts about COVID-19 vaccines to employees who are concerned about receiving the vaccine? 

UAMS: Yes, we are conducting Town Hall meetings with topic experts, offering one-on-one and group information sessions, Intranet COVID Wellness Resources page, many of the aforementioned dissemination tools, panel discussions, etc. 

Baptist Health: To help address vaccine concerns, Baptist Health has utilized a number of tools including videos and informative fact sheets to educate employees on the importance of getting vaccinated. Videos have included messages outlining minimal risks and the benefits from system leadership as well as Baptist Health infectious diseases physicians. Fact sheets on frequently asked questions and myths vs. facts are readily available through our communications channels. 

CHI St. Vincent: (no answer provided)

Veteran’s Hospital: In addition to the weekly virus staff update, we have held several employee virtual town halls.  We have, over the course of the pandemic, provided educational materials as often as possible and encouraged staff to get the vaccine either at any CAVHS health care facility or in the community.  We have also produced videos for staff and Veterans, especially addressing hesitancy among BIPOC populations.  If you like, I can use MaxDrive (FTP) to provide you one of our internal videos. 

White River Medical Center: 

  • Vaccines are available in the Employee Health Office and our Employee Health Nurse has information for employees with questions. 
  • Vaccine Events 
  • Online Question form – Employees may submit questions to a team of Physicians, Pharmacists, and Nurses who volunteer to answer questions. 
  • QR Code scan for additional information sources 
  • Employee Facebook Group 
  • Online Employee Education – Employee can log in to education portal for resources 
  • Email 
  • One-on-One Communication 

Children’s Hospital: We’ve developed videos answering questions with our infectious disease experts, highlighted vaccination opportunities in daily email communications, hosted town halls to answer vaccine questions and encourage vaccination in one-on-one visits with leaders. We want our team members to educate themselves and see their colleagues leading by example to protect the children in our care. We encourage everyone to seek out their trusted healthcare provider to ask questions and make an informed decision. 

National Park Medical Center did not answer the survey questions. A spokeswoman for the hospital instead provided the following statement: 

At this time, National Park Medical Center is strongly encouraging and supporting all of our team members to become fully vaccinated. There is significant evidence that grows daily indicating that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Understanding that the situation changes daily, we are committed to carefully evaluating the research and the level of COVID-19 activity in our communities as we make this very important decision independent of approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

We are also working with our medical staff to provide their local expertise regarding the safety, effectiveness and importance of the vaccines to both our employees and our community at large. 

We will continue to evaluate our procedures and closely follow guidance from our local, state and federal partners in public health. 

CHI St. Vincent provided the following additional statement: 

As part of that vigilance to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our healthcare workers, staff, patients and visitors, our ministry also continues to maintain universal masking policies across our hospitals and medical group clinics. Even with new variant strains of COVID-19, the COVID-19 vaccine and PPE work together to maximize our protection against the virus.