North Platte Hospital Concerned about Potential Staffing Issues with Healthcare Vaccine Mandate
By Aaron Bonderson , Report for America Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
Nov. 15, 2021, 5 a.m. ·
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President Joe Biden and CMS announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate earlier this month for all healthcare workers. The rule applies to institutions receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding. Hospitals are expected to comply or federal financial support will be revoked. The mandate affects 17 million workers across the country.
Mel McNea is the CEO of Great Plains Health in North Platte and said he supports vaccines, but fears he could lose 25 percent of his employees who aren’t currently vaccinated.
“If we lose staff in certain areas of our hospital right now, we’re at such a margin right now that we will have to limit or reduce the amount of patients that we can treat,” McNea said. “Transfer is not a good option right now just because all the hospitals in Nebraska are experiencing problems with enough staff.”
Nebraska’s attorney general, Doug Peterson, has joined nine other states in a lawsuit against the Biden Administration and CMS, contending its vaccine requirement for healthcare workers is not constitutional.
McNea hopes CMS can make its restrictions less stringent, to be more like the OSHA vaccine mandate that offers weekly testing as an alternative.
“Those rules are a way to protect the patient and employees and there’s an option other than just mandating the vaccine,” McNea said. “Obviously, if OSHA feels that there are safe ways [to handle COVID in the workplace] and just came out with those, I would wish CMS would reconsider, too.”
Andy Hale is the vice president of advocacy for the Nebraska Hospital Association and said healthcare staffing was already thin for the 64 rural hospitals in Nebraska before the pandemic and it’s gotten worse since.
“This has become an issue and now they’re up against these vaccine rules, which is really going to compound a situation that was bad already and make it worse,” Hale said.
According to a March report from Becker’s Hospital Review, 136 rural hospitals have closed since 2010.
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