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St. Joseph Medical Center

Hospital systems have no excuse for not mandating COVID vaccines now

So get on with it already.

Local hospitals reacted Friday to President Joseph Biden’s sweeping vaccine mandates directed at the health care workers, who make up much of the Houston workforce.

In a move that overrides Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order barring public institutions from issuing their own COVID-19 restrictions, the administration said it would require vaccinations for employees at health care facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

Baylor College of Medicine’s dean of clinical affairs, Dr. James McDeavitt, said Thursday he supported the new measures.

“It is the right thing to do,” he said.

Still, he wished the plan had come sooner. “It is not going to help us with the current delta surge,” he added.


Five Houston hospital systems already require a vaccine. In June, Houston Methodist became the first hospital in the nation to announce it would require its staff to be fully vaccinated, a move that met months of resistance, including a lawsuit by some employees. Memorial Hermann and Baylor College of Medicine enacted their own vaccine mandates in July; St. Luke’s Health and Texas Children’s Hospital announced similar plans in August.

Thursday’s executive order will bring similar mandates to the city’s remaining health systems.

Until now, Harris Health System and UTHealth had encouraged worker vaccinations but were unable to require it under the governor’s order.

But on Friday, Harris Health System said it “fully intends to embrace the vaccine mandate” for workers at its two hospitals, 18 community health centers and 10 clinics serving the greater Houston area. The system has not yet set a date.

UT Health said it would wait for guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service, expected in October. It had not instituted a mandate as of Friday afternoon.

St. Joseph Medical Center and UTMB Galveston said they are still evaluating Biden’s plan.

While Kelsey-Seybold Clinic said in August it was waiting for full vaccine approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before asking employees to provide proof of immunization, the clinic has not announced a mandate since the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine gained full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval late last month.

See here for the background. I agree that the mandate coming out now will have little to no effect on the current surge, given that it takes a few weeks to get both shots and the full effect of them, and that it will take time for these hospital systems to get their programs going. It would still be nice if some of them had more of a sense of urgency about it. This is still by far the best thing we can do for the medium to longer term, and at the very least these hospital systems should be setting a better example. Get it done already, y’all. The Trib has more.

St. Joseph’s Hospital on the auction block

Another ownership change is coming for the venerable hospital.

St. Joseph Medical Center, Houston’s oldest hospital, will be put up for auction next month, five years after its then-Catholic owners sold majority shares to a North Carolina-based for-profit company.

Hospital Partners of America invested heavily in the hospital but declared bankruptcy 2½ years ago and is initiating the sale as part of its Chapter 7 process. The downtown hospital is financially healthy.

“St. Joseph has been caring for the people of Houston for nearly 125 years, and there are no plans for that to change,” Chief Executive Officer Patrick Mathews said in a statement. “At the end of this process, 30 to 45 days from now, St. Joseph will still be the great institution that’s served Houston all these years. The only difference will be that our physician partners will have a new majority owner.”

St. Joseph doctors hold a nearly 22 percent interest in the hospital.

Iasis Healthcare of Tennessee signed an agreement to buy the remaining 78.2 percent interest Friday, after the bankruptcy trustee conducting the sale selected its bid as the best among 11. Another bidder could still top it at the auction April 15.

The purchase price will be based upon an “enterprise value” of $165 million, an Iasis press release said. The release noted that St. Joseph’s annual net revenue is roughly $245 million.

I’m just glad the hospital, which is where both my girls were born, is in good financial shape. That wasn’t the case a few years ago, when it looked like the place might be forced to close. May it continue to be a part of Houston’s landscape for years to come.