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Port: I don't blame hospitals for reticence to release vaccination numbers

If someone suffers from COVID-19 unnecessarily because a health care worker they interacted with wasn't vaccinated, that's a travesty, but so is an emergency room patient seeing a delay because of staff shortages.

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MINOT, N.D. — Some hospitals in our region are doing well in terms of getting their staff vaccinated .

"At Fargo’s Sanford hospitals, 95% of staff were fully vaccinated and an unknown number of employees had successfully claimed a medical or religious exemption to the shot as of Wednesday, Oct. 20," Jeremy Turley reports .

"Erin Johnson, a spokeswoman for Sanford Bismarck, said more than 90% of employees at the capital city hospital are fully vaccinated, though she didn’t know the exact inoculation rate," he continues.

But not all of the major medical centers in our region are as forthcoming about their vaccination rates. "Major providers like Essentia , CHI and Minot’s Trinity Health declined to provide specifics on their vaccination levels," Turley reports.

Because vaccines have become a part of our culture war, dividing our society into two extremes, one buying into the universe of COVID-19 and anti-vax quackery available on social media and beyond and the other taking a sanctimoniously militant stance against even the merely vaccine-hesitant, there will be an impulse to take an unnuanced view of this news.



The anti-vax crowd will find validation for their inane views in the reticence of medical professionals, while the stridently pro-vax will heap recrimination on the hospitals.
Neither position will recognize the terrible situation these hospitals find themselves in.

It can be hard to remember, given the way COVID-19 has dominated every news cycle for more than a year now, but there are other things going on in the world.

People are still having heart attacks and strokes. They're still tumbling down stairwells and falling off ladders. We are asking our hospitals and clinics to continue to provide succor for all the normal ailments we may suffer on a given day while simultaneously dealing with the fallout of a protracted pandemic, the latter made all the more complicated by the culture war over vaccinations that medical professionals are not immune to.

Maybe, in that context, we can cut the hospitals some slack, trusting that they're doing their best to get their people vaccinated, while also recognizing that their responsibilities are much larger than treating COVID-19 patients?

If someone suffers from COVID-19 unnecessarily because a health care worker they interacted with wasn't vaccinated, that's a travesty, but so is an emergency room patient seeing a delay because of staff shortages.

Dr. Jeff Horak, a surgeon at Lake Region Healthcare, addresses the Fergus Falls School Board on Oct. 11, 2021. As of Thursday, Oct. 21, he was no longer employed with Lake Region. YouTube / Calvary Chapel Fergus Falls


As I write this, there's another headline in the news about Fergus Falls doctor who is no longer working for Lake Region Healthcare after speaking against a mask mandate at a local school board meeting (there are also claims that he used a racial slur during his remarks, though based on the reporting of the incident, I'm dubious that his intent was racial).

Whatever you may think of Dr. Jeff Horak's views on masking, are the people of the Fergus Falls area better served by their medical community now that they're down one doctor? Whatever the causes for Dr. Horak's separation from his employer (the hospital is mum on specifics), do incidents like this enhance the general public's trust in the health care industry at a time when we desperately need that trust to be higher than it is?

I think you know the answers to those questions.

It will be a long time before we can do a full accounting of what the COVID-19 pandemic has cost our society, but when we're finally able to reach some conclusions about that, I hope we'll also tally up the additional harm done by the culture war around the virus.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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