OWOSSO — Memorial Healthcare CEO Brian Long Wednesday said the facility could lose up to 30% of its staff because of a federal mandate affecting health care settings.
While the Biden Administration Wednesday halted implementation of an employee vaccine mandate through OSHA for businesses with more than 100 workers amid court challenges, a separate mandate affecting only those in health care settings remains in effect.
Long said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services order is actually stricter than the general mandate, and does not include test-out options. The only exceptions are for medical reasons and accepted religious objections.
Long said that among Memorial staff, about 30% are hesitant about getting a vaccine. According to the hospital’s website, the 161-bed facility has more than 200 medical staff and more than 1,400 employees overall.
“Many staff have indicated they would rather resign … than to take the vaccine,” Long said. “It was something of a personal decision until recently.”
A spokesman for Sparrow Health System said the provider also is about 70% vaccinated.
According to CMS, facilities covered by the regulation must establish a policy ensuring all eligible staff have received the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine prior to providing any care, treatment or other services by Dec. 6.
All eligible staff must have received the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated — either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson — by Jan. 4, 2022.
The CMS mandate applies to surgical centers, hospices, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, rehab centers, clinics and renal centers, among others.
Memorial Healthcare already is at its highest level of concern because of the high number of COVID patients (35 as of Wednesday), the percentage of positivity in the community (more than 19% in tests), the number of employees out for illness or other reasons, and the number of in-patients (as many as 102).
“It’s a perfect storm,” Long said.
Shiawassee County registered a record number (441) of new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days.
Long said he is vaccinated and that he sees the effectiveness of becoming vaccinated.
“Vaccination is personal,” he said. “From my perspective, we believe the vaccines have done a tremendous amount to mitigate the disease and we encourage people to become vaccinated. We know it’s effective.”
Long said medical providers also have many more tools now to aid patients, but people need to take precautions, particularly if they aren’t vaccinated.
“If you’re feeling ill, I encourage you to be tested and talk to your primary care physician,” he said. “Quarantine, stay home. Consider a mask. The reality is COVID is not done with us.”