Hospital issues notice of vaccine requirement to employees, complying with federal mandate

Published 5:31 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

NATCHEZ — Just as a mandate had been issued by President Joe Biden on Nov. 4 requiring businesses that employ 100 or more people to require vaccinations or weekly testing of its employees, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued notice of the new requirements to hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities.

The notice states they will require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees of all facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs in accordance with the federal mandate.

There is no weekly testing option for healthcare employees under the program.

They must be vaccinated.

According to CMS, these requirements apply to approximately 76,000 providers and cover over 17 million health care workers across the country.

This includes Merit Health Natchez, who passed this notice along to employees last week.

The hospital has not responded to questions about how many of its employees are unvaccinated or whether any have expressed unwillingness to be vaccinated.

In an email from Kay Ketchings, who is the director of marketing for Merit Health Natchez, the hospital issued a statement which said, “The majority of our caregivers already have chosen to be vaccinated and more are making that choice now.”

Ketchings said, “Should any of our employees choose not to meet the deadlines of this federal mandate, they will be off the work schedule until they choose to become compliant.”

The mandate has received widespread opposition among some workers, unions and conservative leaders across the nation. More than two dozen Republican state attorneys general sued the Biden administration, arguing the federal government lacks the authority. A federal appeals court agreed with them and temporarily blocked the order, which may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The statement issued by Merit Health Natchez says they must comply.

“As a Medicare and Medicaid-certified provider, our hospital is required to abide by this mandate to continue to participate in those programs,” the hospital states. “The mandate requires all facilities covered by this regulation to ensure their team members, including medical staff members, start the COVID-19 vaccine series by Dec. 5 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, or have an approved religious or medical exemption.

“We stand firm in our commitment to maintain a safe environment for our patients and caregivers,” the hospital states. “The majority of our caregivers already have chosen to be vaccinated and more are making that choice now. We appreciate the cooperation of our team during what has been a challenging time for everyone in healthcare.”

According to CMS, the regulation provides for exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs, observances or practices. Facilities must develop a similar process or plan for permitting exemptions in alignment with federal law.

CMS states it will “ensure compliance with these requirements through established survey and enforcement processes. If a provider or supplier does not meet the requirements, it will be cited by a surveyor as being non-compliant and have an opportunity to return to compliance before additional actions occur.”

For more information about how this regulation affects healthcare workers, visit:

www.cms.gov/files/document/cms-omnibus-staff-vax-requirements-2021.docx