Health issues

Memorial Regional Health issues letter on vaccine requirements for healthcare workers

Craig Memorial Hospital
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

In a letter to the community, Jennifer Riley, COO of Memorial Regional Health, outlined the new COVID-19 vaccine requirements policy, as mandated by state and federal authorities.

On August 30, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Board of Health voted 6 to 1 to legally require vaccination for all licensed health facilities in the state. This would require MRH to comply and direct employees, contractors and staff to receive the vaccine, and those who do not receive the vaccine by a certain date can no longer be employed.

Some employees are eligible for limited exemptions, but those who are not must receive their first injection by September 30. Recalls will also be required if recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Those who qualify for these exceptions will be required to comply with CDPHE COVID-19 testing regulations.

“Behind the scenes, MRH worked with the Colorado Hospital Association and Senator Bob Rankin to request that the COVID-19 vaccination regulations be changed based on the burden imposed on recruitment, staffing and retention. rural health care center in our facilities, ”Riley’s letter read. . “We know that by passing with a 6-1 majority, the COVID-19 Vaccination Regulations were unlikely to be overturned. At the request of the HRM and several of our peer hospitals on the West Slope, Senator Rankin appealed to CDPHE on our behalf.

The letter contains a passage from Rankin, who said that Colorado’s rural health care system is “fragile.” Rankin cited severe stress and the lack of health care options for his rural constituents as reasons to add a flexible waiver process for employees. This means that hospitals could still operate while employees choose whether or not to be vaccinated.

“Maybe it can be based on accessing critical services,” Rankin said in the letter. “I suggest that the mandate allow a threshold of 90% of vaccinated according to the current requirements for influenza vaccine. And please relax the time requirement. Do not react to the current wave of COVID and do not damage our health system for a long time. “

In addition to state regulations, MRH “cannot ignore” regulations or mandates created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Earlier this week, President Joe Biden ordered all CMS facilities to comply with a 100% vaccination rate in order to receive federal money. Riley also said that about 66% of the hospital’s revenue comes from payments made by CMS.

This rule would cover an “overwhelming majority” of healthcare facilities in the United States, Riley wrote.

“Any hope of amending the CDPHE’s COVID-19 vaccination regulations changed on September 13, 2021, when the Biden administration announced a new policy that will be set by the Federal Safety and Health Administration at work (OSHA), which focuses on much of the news and controversy, ”Riley wrote. “The proposed rule will require all businesses with 100 or more employees to achieve 100% vaccination rates or require weekly testing of unvaccinated employees. “

This rule, however, does not apply to government entities, so the Moffat County government is not subject to this federal OSHA standard. CMS entities could attempt to challenge Biden’s leadership in court, but Riley said they would likely fail.

On Monday, MRH management met with representatives from the Colorado Hospital Association to discuss the new mandates. At that meeting, Riley said, CHA representatives said the CDPHE would “carefully review” each facility’s medical or religious exemptions to avoid unfounded or spurious avoidance of the vaccine. Facilities that circumvent the regulations would be “exposed to serious legal and financial repercussions”.

“As healthcare providers, we understand that our top priority is to do everything possible to provide high quality care to our patients in a safe environment. This tenure exasperates staff shortages throughout the state of Colorado and is particularly troublesome in rural America, ”Riley’s letter reads. “MRH will continue to work hard to provide high quality healthcare to all of Moffat County and the surrounding communities it serves while complying with these new regulations and challenges. “

However, Riley in the letter acknowledged that the commands cannot be ignored.

“About 66% of our revenue is based on CMS payments,” the letter read. “MRH cannot ignore these changes and will be interviewed in person by our accreditation body to demonstrate compliance. “

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