By Scott Bidroski
The future of one of the largest employers in Sheridan County may hang in the balance due to the newly mandated COVID-19 vaccine policy set forth by the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid (CMS).
According to Gordon Memorial Health Services (GMHS) CEO Doris Brown, uncertainly lies ahead in the near future.
The new mandate will require all workers in medical clinics that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments to receive the vaccine. The first dose must be administered by Monday, December 6.
“If you consider where we are right now, we have about 55% of the employees that have been vaccinated. Where we end up at the deadline on December 6, I don’t know,” said Brown.
If that number does not go up, GMHS could be looking at severe under staffing in all departments. This would result in many services, possibly even Emergency Room services, being limited or suspended.
“I can say that it will be very detrimental to the facility if we have many individuals that have not been able to comply with the vaccine or exemptions,” said Brown.
“We would have to decrease certain service lines and potentially run a diversion in the ER depending on what the patient would present with, meaning we may have to divert the patient to other facilities,” added Brown.
Brown also notes that other local medical facilities in the Panhandle will be facing the same issues as GMHS. This could complicate matters even more as patients who would need to be diverted due to under staffing here at GMHS may have no other local options to be diverted to.
If employees do not receive the vaccine, the payments provided by the Federal government for Medicare and Medicaid patients will be pulled. In addition, the facility will be fined until they terminate employees who do not comply with the mandate.
Currently, 59% of the monies that the hospital receives come from Medicare. You do not need to be a math major to figure out what kind of impact that would have on the bottom line.
According to Brown, the answer right now is simple. Contact your representatives at the Federal level and voice your opinion about the vaccine mandates.
Those representatives include Senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, and House of Representatives members Jeff Fortenberry, Don Bacon, and Adrian Smith.
Brown also notes that citizens can go to the CMS website, www.cms.gov, and comment your thoughts on the vaccine mandate. This comment period will run for 60 days and will close on January 4, 2022. CMS states that it will consider and respond to comments as part of potential future rule making, if needed.
More information about the upcoming mandate is also available on CMS’s website.