Federal mandate has MRH again requiring employee COVID-19 vaccination
A little more than a month after the state’s mandate that 100% of healthcare employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 was dropped at the 11th hour to a 90% threshold, Craig’s hospital is again faced with requiring its employees to receive the vaccine or be ineligible for employment.
A federal mandate this time is the impetus for Memorial Regional Health employees’ new deadline of Dec. 5 to receive at least the first dose of a two-dose vaccine cycle, or Jan. 4 for full vaccination (a single dose, in the case of the Johnson & Johnson option, only being required by the later date, while both doses are mandated by the January deadline in the case of two-dose options).
“Last week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid issued their Interim Final rule regarding the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for healthcare personnel effective November 5, 2021,” a letter to staff from MRH interim CEO Jennifer Riley issued Nov. 8 read.
The rule, the letter continued, requires COVID-19 vaccination for the following categories of healthcare workers:
- All healthcare staff working at a facility that participates in Medicare and Medicaid programs, regardless of clinical responsibility or patient contact. This includes all new hires, travelers, students, vendor representatives who have patient contact (e.g. Stryker representatives who are present in the OR).
- All employees who work offsite who routinely care for patients and clients (e.g. home health and hospice, and health technicians in the schools).
The following personnel, the letter details, are not required to get vacinated:
- Employees who are fulltime tele-workers who are NOT subject to this mandate (e.g., prior authorization specialists)
- Employees who have an approved medical or religious exemption
“MRH is required to comply with this mandate, because we participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and roughly 66% of our revenue comes from Medicare and Medicaid payments,” the letter reads.
Riley in her letter explained that those who believe they qualify for religious or medical exemptions will need to complete a form attached to the email and seek evaluation from the human resources staff. Those with previously approved exemptions from the previous state mandate deadline in September will need to seek approval again, the letter reads.
The earlier mandate left about 30 MRH employees with denied exemption requests who still refused to receive the vaccine. Many had resigned or were prepared to be terminated by the Sept. 30 deadline before the state reversed course at the last minute. There’s no indication the criteria have changed in the intervening month and a half.
“The federal mandate reinforces what the state put out in their mandate two months ago,” Riley said in a phone interview Friday evening. “They’re requiring 100% of healthcare employees to be vaccinated. We’re going to follow the process, offering opportunities to apply for medical and religious exemptions and reviewing those. Anybody who doesn’t receive an exemption will need to be vaccinated or they won’t be eligible for employment after Jan. 4.”
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