Med Center Health decided to require all medical staff, students, residents, fellows and vendors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after the hospital saw a “sharp increase” in COVID-19 patients, Med Center Health Executive Vice President Wade Stone told the Daily News.

People in leadership positions have through Aug. 9 to receive their first dose of the vaccine, and all other staff have through Sept. 1, Med Center Health said Thursday in announcing the requirement.

A Med Center Health news release said more than 59 health and medical groups – including the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and American College of Physicians – have called for all health care and long-term care employers to require the vaccine.

“This is the right thing to do for our staff, our patients and our community,” Med Center Health President and CEO Connie Smith said in a statement. “We have an obligation to do everything in our power to protect the health and well-being of others and to help end this pandemic.”

Stone said Med Center Health was seeing COVID-19 patients in the low single digits in recent months. But that number spiked in recent days to more than 20, and the sickest patients are unvaccinated.

“We are a role model for leading health care in this region, and it’s important for us to lead by example,” Stone said. “Similar to the way we led efforts to get our vaccine clinic organized, we felt it was important for us to move on this as well. We feel vaccination is clearly the key to ending this pandemic.

“We consulted with our leadership group and we are 100% certain this is the right path,” he said. “Our mission is to improve the quality of life for our region, and we are going to do whatever it takes to do so. This is an important step to make sure we do that. If you are going to be taking care of patients, you need to be vaccinated. We are the safety net hospital for this entire region.”

Stone said about 65% of The Medical Center’s staff has been vaccinated.

When asked why a large section had not received their shot, Stone said it was a reflection of what’s happening with the general population.

“I believe nearly all of our medical staff have been vaccinated,” he said. “The public should seek information from local physicians and hear their thoughts. It’s clear: Vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic. We need to see vaccinations go up in this area. That’s just how it is.”

In the 10-county Barren River region, seven counties have a “critical” COVID-19 incidence rate as defined by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Warren County is among those seven.

Two counties in the region have a vaccination rate above 40% – Simpson and Logan. No counties in the region have a vaccination rate of at least 45%.

“Time is of the essence here. We felt like it was very necessary,” Stone said of Med Center Health’s requirements. “Hopefully, other health organizations follow suit as well. We all realize these are not normal circumstances. The time is now. That decision was based on having our entire community in mind.”

Stone said Med Center Health has administered more than 87,000 shots of COVID-19 vaccine across its system, but there has not been a large push from the public to get vaccinated since the latest spike from the arrival of the delta variant.

“Hopefully, that will change,” he said. “We have no worries about running out of hospital beds now, but the concern is that if this spike continues it could certainly impact our capacity here at the hospital. It could affect our ability to care for patients and that’s definitely a concern.”

Last week, Medical Center Urgentcare started administering Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for adults and children ages 12 and older from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Individuals age 12 or older can make an appointment to receive the vaccine by texting “COVID” to 270-796-4400 or by calling 270-796-4400.

The COVID-19 vaccine clinic is located on the first floor of The Medical Center – WKU Health Sciences Complex. Limited walk-ins are available, and those under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The University of Louisville health system was the first in Kentucky to require vaccinations.

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.