LOUISVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – November 1st was the deadline for staff at Baptist Memorial Healthcare and University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, smaller hospitals like Winston Medical Center are still bracing for a decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“I do anticipate we will have some people that will leave if this comes down,” says Winston Medical CEO Paul Black. “We’ll just have to adjust to it when it happens.”
That is the reality facing Winston Medical and those like it as they await the expected CMS ruling requiring their employees to get their COVID shots.
“To say the least, I’m a little bit concerned,” Black says. “We haven’t had 100 percent participation with the vaccine here by our employees or associates. Last I checked, it’s somewhere around the 55 percent range.”
In early September, CMS expanded their vaccination requirement for all healthcare facilities receiving their funding. To do that, they are changing their Conditions of Participation.
“We’re going to have to comply and we won’t have a choice,” Black says. “There’s not a healthcare facility or operation that I can think of that can operate without the Medicare & Medicaid funding.”
The rule requiring vaccination for workers at Medicare & Medicaid facilities has passed a White House review and takes effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register.
“When the ruling first came out that was only related to long-term care facilities, there was concern there for us too,” Black says. “Because we have a long-term care facility that we (worried) would have a whole (lot) of people just leave and go work somewhere else in healthcare.”
Now he fears the same thing will happen on an even larger scale.
“The concern is that there are going to be some portions of the healthcare market will just say, ‘To heck with it, I’m getting out of health care, I’ll go work somewhere else,’” Black says.
The CEO expects it to be the latest blow to an already dwindling workforce.
“We’re hoping that as the virus wanes throughout the country, that a lot of these healthcare workers that have gotten a contract and gone somewhere else will come back to the state and things will kind of level out,” he says. “But, we may be in a position where it may never come back to normal.”
After CMS proposes a rule change, there is a 45 to 60-day period to gather feedback before the rule is finalized.