BREAKING: State changes vaccine threshold, MRH only needs 90% vaccinated to remain in compliance |

BREAKING: State changes vaccine threshold, MRH only needs 90% vaccinated to remain in compliance

Terminations for 30 employees who refused the mandate will not occur as planned Thursday

The Memorial Hospital at Craig.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

Memorial Regional Health won’t have to say goodbye to a sizable number of its employees after all.

Just hours before the compliance date set by the state for all healthcare facilities to have 100% of employees on the path to COVID-19 vaccination — at least one shot received — the state of Colorado’s mandate changed. Instead of all employees, the state reduced the number to 90%, the same as required for the flu vaccine.

As such, Memorial Regional Health, which was on track to separating with 30 employees who had refused to get vaccinated for COVID-19 on Thursday, will instead be able to retain those employees, according to a letter sent to staff and the board of trustees by hospital CEO Andy Daniels.

“In the eleventh hour before the compliance date of (Sept. 30), the state of Colorado has modified their stance on the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement for licensed healthcare workers,” the letter reads. “We were notified today at 9:50 a.m. that significant changes are occurring to the state of Colorado’s vaccine mandate.”

The changes, the letter continues, eliminates the 100% threshold and also does not require routine testing for healthcare facilities if they are above 90% vaccinated.

“Therefore, at this time, unvaccinated employees will not be considered ineligible for employment at MRH,” the letter reads. “To be candid, we owe a large round of thank-you to those that did get vaccinated to get us to the 90% threshold. They saved this hospital and access to healthcare in this community.”

A hospital spokesperson said that of the 30 employees who were to be terminated Thursday, 16 were clinical, 14 were non-clinical. Twenty-one were full-time employees.

Daniels continues to write that he’s tried to be transparent with this controversial issue.

“When the state announced the mandate, and stated that compliance was to be 100%, we began the process to become in compliance,” Daniels wrote. “Specifically, the state of Colorado has changed the compliance required at this time. MRH has been, and always will comply with requirements under applicable statutory and regulatory laws. It is still unknown what will happen at the Federal level, specifically our Conditions of Participation with medicare. We are still facing uncertainty with future mandates.”

The letter concludes with a bolded, underlined note.

“Given the updated information we received today on (Sept. 29) at 9:50 a.m., no terminations will occur on (Sept. 30),” the letter reads.

Unvaccinated staff, the letter continues, will be required to wear an N-95 mask starting Oct. 1. A new policy will be issued by the end of Thursday.

An additional seven employees had resigned from their positions prior to the forced termination that would have occurred Thursday. Hospital spokesperson Jennifer Riley said that those employees, if their notice was through Thursday, could rescind their resignation and remain employed. Others, whose final day had already passed, could be considered for re-hire. Anyone who simply walked off the job would not be considered, she said.

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