Jerry Jasper, CEO of Brownfield Regional Medical Center in Texas, tells local news station KCBD that Biden’s requirement that all hospital staff get vaccinated could lead to the facility being shut down. “Probably 20 to 25 percent of my staff will have to go away if that’s the case,” says Jasper.
As a hospital that services low-income and elderly people, Brownfield Regional Medical Center is dependent on Medicare and Medicaid. Biden’s vaccine mandate covers all employees of hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
According to the White House, the mandate applies “to nursing home staff as well as staff in hospitals and other CMS-regulated settings, including clinical staff, individuals providing services under arrangements, volunteers and staff who are not involved in direct patient, resident or client care.” CMS refers to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“It’s huge in our rural community as all the other rural communities,” says Jasper, speaking of the Medicaid funding stream. “We all have high poverty levels and stuff like that, so a lot of Medicaid usage in our communities and stuff like that.”
Another Texas hospital CEO has said that the jab mandate could hurt his organization too, which is 70 percent vaccinated. (Related: Maine healthcare facilities losing workers as state imposes vaccine mandate.)
“Well, it would be devastating for the community,” Seminole Hospital District CEO Larry Gray tells KCBD. “We have a large percentage of our revenue that comes from Medicare, Medicaid and those kinds of products.”
The Seminole Hospital District operates an assisted living home, a healthcare center and a hospital.
“What happens to individual choice and medical decisions between the patient and their doctor, which is all of the things that we’re trying to support?” asks Gray.
The Texas hospitals are not the only ones that could face a worker shortage because of a vaccine mandate. In New York, where former Gov. Andrew Cuomo has mandated that all healthcare workers in the state get a vaccine, employees at hospitals and long-term care facilities need to get their first dose by Sep. 27.
Hospital to close maternity ward due to staffing shortage caused by vaccine mandate
Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, New York has announced that it is pausing maternity services later this month because dozens of staff members quit rather than get COVID-19 vaccines. CEO Gerald Cayer has predicted an unsafe staffing shortage at the hospital by Sept. 24. The hospital’s maternity ward will be temporarily shut down starting Sept. 25.
According to Cayer, 165 out of the hospital’s 464 employees have not been jabbed, and 30 formally resigned over the vaccine mandate. The maternity ward alone has had six resignations. An additional seven nurses in the unit remain undecided on whether they will comply with the vaccine mandate.
“If we can pause the service and now focus on recruiting nurses who are vaccinated, we will be able to reengage in delivering babies here in Lewis County,” says Cayer.
Healthcare facilities face mass resignations
Many other facilities in the area are also facing mass resignations and worker shortages following Cuomo’s vaccine mandate.
“We are not alone. There are thousands of positions that are open [in the northern part of the state] and now we have a challenge to work through, you know, with the vaccination mandate,” says Cayer.
“Our hope is as we get closer [to the deadline], the numbers will increase of individuals who are vaccinated, fewer individuals will leave and maybe, with a little luck, some of those who have resigned will reconsider.”
A nursing home executive has also warned about staffing shortages due to the New York vaccine requirement.
“We want the state to make sure they understand that there could be emergencies where you have buildings full of elderly people who need care, without enough workers,” LeadingAge New York CEO Jim Clyne tells Newsday.
LeadingAge New York represents nonprofit nursing homes, adult care facilities and retirement communities.
Federal judge blocks enforcement of New York vaccine requirement
There’s also a pending federal lawsuit against the state for refusing to grant religious exemptions to healthcare workers. A federal judge has blocked the New York State Department of Health from enforcing the vaccine requirement. (Related: New York abolishes religious exemption for covid vaccine mandate.)
“The vaccine mandate is suspended in operation to the extent that the DOH is barred from enforcing any requirement that employers deny religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination or that they revoke any exemptions employers already granted before the vaccine mandate issued,” Judge David Hurd wrote on Sept. 14.
The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until at least Sept. 28, when there will be another hearing.
Nebraska welcomes unvaccinated healthcare workers
In Nebraska, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska has approved job ads that highlight COVID-19 vaccines as optional. At a press conference, Ricketts says the ads provide an extra recruiting push to shore up the state’s long-standing nursing shortage and are not meant to target unvaccinated nurses specifically.
“We have a number of positions open at the state of Nebraska. We need nurses just like everybody else does,” Ricketts says. “We want to recruit them. We also heard from a lot of people when the hospitals made that announcement that they were very unhappy with their employers interfering with their personal health decisions. We want nurses to not leave the workforce, because we need them all.”
The governor says he is open to “further measures” to shore up staffing at hospitals, but will not approve a mandate for either face coverings or vaccines.
“If you go look at our advertisement, for example, we say, ‘while vaccines are encouraged, they’re not required,'” says the governor. “We need people to do this because it’s part of personal responsibility for themselves.”
Ricketts is one of the most vocal critics of Biden’s vaccine mandates. He criticizes Biden for lack of communication with states, noting that since taking office, Biden has not participated in any of the weekly phone calls the White House has with the nation’s governors.
“The president should look at the data, and maybe the president should attend one of the weekly calls his administration has with all the governors – he’s not been on one yet since he’s been president – and maybe talk to some of the governors and ask them about what’s going on in their states because he appears to be pretty ignorant of what’s going on in places like Nebraska,” says Ricketts.
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