SH Bronson Ruth McDowell

Bronson South Haven Physician Assistant Ruth McDowell is shown receiving her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020 when doses were first placed on the market for first responders, such as those in the medical profession. Bronson Healthcare is now requiring all staff members to be fully vaccinated from the COVID-19 virus by Dec. 1.

KALAMAZOO—A Southwestern Michigan medical care system is joining other hospital groups in Michigan to require its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Bronson Healthcare, which oversees two hospitals in South Haven and Paw Paw as well as several other medical facilities in Van Buren County, has announced it will require all of its staff members to receive vaccinations to control the curb of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed 21,700 lives in Michigan to date.

In an announcement issued this past Wednesday, Bronson Healthcare officials stated that its workforce, along with contracted personnel, students, volunteers, vendors and others who conduct business at Bronson, must be vaccinated and fully protected against COVID-19 by Dec. 1.

“As the region’s leading healthcare provider, it is our responsibility to safely care for our patients, our staff, and our communities during this pandemic,” stated Bill Manns, president and CEO of Bronson,” in the news release that was also signed by Dr. Sridhar Chalsani, chief of staff for Bronson Healthcare. “Yet, we continue to be challenged by the unrelenting spread of COVID-19 infection across the nation and across our region.”

Since July, the number of people contracting the deadly virus has spiked throughout the United States, primarily in southern states, prompting the nation’s medical community to stress that people resume wearing face masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, and to become vaccinated.

“We know that vaccination provides the best protection against COVID-19 and is the first line of defense in preventing the spread of this devastating virus in the community and in our workplace,” Manns went on to say.

Three-quarters of Bronson employees are currently vaccinated, but the regional healthcare group wants to do more to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The percentage of Bronson employees who are fully vaccinated is currently over 76 percent. This is a greatly appreciated, but it is not high enough to achieve herd immunity and the level of protection necessary to halt this extremely contagious virus,” Manns said.

New COVID-19 cases in the United States have risen dramatically since the start of July. As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control reported 198,534 new cases, up from 25,563 on July 1.

Bronson’s new vaccine mandate does not apply to visitors and patients, but hospital officials think it is important to ensure that medical staff protect themselves and others against spreading the disease.

“We firmly believe this is the right thing to do,” Manns said. “People look to those of us in healthcare to be role models, to know the science and to bust the myths about the vaccine so that they feel confident about getting vaccinated and confident in their personal safety when they come to Bronson for care.”