In a letter addressed to the Anchorage Assembly, the CEO of Providence Medical Center says the organization supports the ordinance from Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel, which would mandate community masking for all in Anchorage over the age of 2.
The ordinance, AO 2021-91, has caused a furious community response since it was introduced in a secretive special meeting of the Anchorage Assembly on Sept. 20. This week, the Assembly is working through public comments, and will again hear public comment at the “continued” meeting that begins at 6 pm Thursday at the Loussac Library.
“Providence is also one of the top 10 commercial property taxpayers in the Municipality of Anchorage,” Preston Simmons wrote. “We are deeply committed to improving the physical and economic health of our state.
“Alaskans can continue to expect high-quality care, but you should know that the state’s health care safety net is strained. We are being tested like never before. Even before the pandemic, patients were coming to the hospital with more serious illnesses, requiring higher acuity care. These cases require skilled medical teams, including skilled nurses. Alaska’s hospitals are consistently operating near or at capacity and available staffed beds are at a premium,” he wrote.
“I believe the question was asked during the Assembly meeting and echoed by some in the room, if Alaska’s hospitals and Providence are lying about the toll and impacts of COVID- 19. The clear and unequivocable [sic] answer is no,” the letter said.
“Health care staffing shortages have only been exasperated [sic] by COVID-19 and are not tied to vaccine requirements. The lack of available travel nurses and the increased stress and demands placed on caregivers has resulted in real shortages across the nation. The mental and physical toll on health care workers will have lasting impacts. To be blunt, they are tired. They are burned out,” the letter said.
Simmons went on to describe Providence Alaska’s vaccine policy for its burned out workforce, saying, “If we reflect to a little more than a year ago, Alaska’s health care workers celebrated the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines by taking selfies and lining up to receive the first doses.”
As of Sept. 29, 84% of Providence Alaska caregivers are either vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption, Providence said.
“The good news is that public health measures that are based on science save lives. Masking is effective. Social distancing is effective. Washing our hands is effective. Vaccines are effective. Alaskans need to wear masks indoors and as CEO of Providence Alaska, I reiterate our support for any measures that result in the increased use of masks, including AO No. 2021-91. Mitigation measures — including indoor masking requirements — provide a layer of protection for our communities, families, and workforce.
Read the entire letter: