Akron Children’s CEO addresses staff shortages, COVID vaccine for children

Local News

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Akron Children’s Hospital is planning to expand services under its new leadership.

Wednesday, the new CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital discussed changes coming to the hospital as well as its plan to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11, if and when it happens.

CEO Chris Gessner spoke with First News, also laying out the plan to deal with staffing shortages and the future of health care, specifically in the areas of behavioral health needs.

“I’m a big believer that combination of mental health professionals, behavioral health professionals, clinicians in the medical world working together as a team produces the best outcome, and I’m very excited to see that commitment here in Akron,” he said.

Gessner, a native of Pennsylvania, spent decades in the medical field, even helping to open a children’s hospital in Pittsburgh, where they combined behavioral and physical healthcare needs.

“As we’re coming out of this pandemic, we’re seeing the anxiety that’s out there,” he said.

That anxiety, Gessner said, stems from the pandemic but also other things like social media and school.

“Vaccine anxiety is a big one to try to manage amongst parents and staff, because as soon as we can get a bulk of the population vaccinated, the sooner we can move on to getting our lives completely back to normal,” he said.

The hospital says it does not plan to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for staff unless required by law.

Instead, there will be mandatory weekly testing for anyone who chooses not to get vaccinated.

“We’re a place where children come who are sick, and many of them are immunocompromised, so I think we are held to a higher standard as healthcare providers to try to get as many of our people vaccinated as possible. And if not, then we have to do everything we can so people feel safe coming to Akron Children’s Hospital for their care,” Gessner said.

The hospital will have a series of meetings to figure out the best way to determine who needs weekly testing and the best way to make sure it’s easy and convenient for them to get it. They are still strongly encouraging staff to get the vaccine.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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