Health facilities say they’ll comply with mandate
Three local facilities say they will comply with a new federal mandate requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, but they want questions answered first.
Others could not be reached for comment.
St. Luke Hospital chief executive Jeremy Ensey said the hospital would enforce the mandate.
“We don’t have any choice because they can withhold Medicare and Medicaid,” Ensey said. “We’ve been following Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Centers for Disease Control recommendations all along.”
Ensey questioned how employees who might have religious or medical reasons to avoid vaccination could continue to avoid it. He noted that some larger hospital systems have chosen blanket enforcement by firing employees who are not vaccinated.
Ensey predicts lawyers will be up all night reading the mandate and looking for ways to fight it.
At this point, St. Luke has not lost employees over the mandate, Ensey said.
“Where you get into the fine points of religious and health exemptions, some hospitals are deciding they are not going to allow those exemptions,” he said.
Ensey said he discussed the mandate with the hospital’s board of directors after initial information was first released in September.
“We’ve had conversations with legal to make sure we have policies to cover us,” he said.
Ensey expressed weariness over the mandate.
“In the midst of a pandemic, we’re already dealing with enough things,” Ensey said.
Hillsboro Community Hospital chief executive Mark Rooker said his hospital also would follow the mandate but also was waiting for questions to be answered.
“We’re going to follow the mandate and be in compliance,” Rooker said. “There will always be additional questions that we will want to have answered.”
HCH has a high rate of employees already vaccinated, he said.
Rooker said the hospital wasn’t making immediate decisions on how to enforce the mandate.
“We will take our time over the next week or two to research and develop what measures we can take to accommodate our workplace.” he said.
He hasn’t had time to look at legal ramifications of the mandate and prepare to deal with them.
“Honestly, I think we’re on the very front end of this and we’re going to have to be in compliance,” Rooker said.
Laura DeLaney, chief executive of Parkside Homes in Hillsboro, noted that the mandate was being challenged in federal court.
If the courts uphold the mandate, Parkside will enforce it, she said.
“We are participants of CMS, so we will follow those guidelines,” she said.
Parkside has been staying in contact with families, residents, and staff since the pandemic began and is remaining in contact regarding the mandate, DeLaney said.
All employees of Marion Assisted Living already have been vaccinated, the facility said.
Administrators of Salem Home in Hillsboro, Bethesda Homes in Goessel, Peabody Health and Rehab, and Westview Manor in Peabody did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment.