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Hundreds of hospitals across Texas were grappling with how to respond to an announcement by President Joe Biden earlier this week that they would be required to make vaccines mandatory for their employees on Friday – even as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott , promises to fight against the new rule.
While some, like Texas Children’s Hospital and Houston Methodist, had previously announced such policies, the state’s 120 or so public hospitals have so far been banned from promulgating warrants under an Abbott Executive Order – and find themselves in a much more complicated position. .
“I have President Biden telling me he’s going to mandate him, but I have Governor Abbott saying I can’t mandate him,” said Adam Willman, general manager of Goodall Witcher Healthcare public hospital. in Clifton, outside of Waco. “Me or not? So I’m just waiting for the dust to settle yesterday to really sit down with my administrative team and see where we go from here.
On Thursday, as deaths from the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 increased across the country and new cases continued to put pressure on intensive care units and hospital emergency rooms, Biden announced that all companies, public and private, with more than 100 employees will be needed. impose vaccinations on their employees.
At the same time, the United States Center for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services noted that in October, a new rule would require all hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers and similar facilities – regardless of the number of employees – to require employee vaccinations as a condition of participation in Medicare and Medicaid.
“There is no doubt that staff in any health care setting who are not vaccinated pose a direct and indirect threat to patient safety and the health of the population,” said Xavier Becerra , secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement. “Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their point of entry into the healthcare system, is essential. “
The news has come as healthcare facilities continue to struggle with lower than desired vaccination rates among hospital staff, staff shortages due to burnout and an overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients following the latest wave fueled by the more contagious delta variant.
Many large private and faith-based hospitals in the state have already started to force the vaccine on their employees.
In April, the Houston Methodist Hospital System was among the first in the country to implement the policy and gained national attention when 150 employees who refused to comply with it quit or resigned.
Since then, larger hospital systems have followed suit.
Wednesday in Wichita Falls, United Regional Healthcare System announcement a compulsory vaccination policy for its employees as of November 1.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Phyllis Cowling, president and CEO of the hospital, told the Wichita Falls Times Record News. “I recognize the political and cultural climate in our community, and I realize that feelings are strong on both sides of the vaccine divide. “
Directors of rural hospitals, about two-thirds of which are public and therefore have not been allowed to issue warrants, expressed mixed reactions to the announcement, said John Henderson, executive director of the Texas Organization for Rural and Community Hospitals.
These facilities tend to be located in more conservative areas where vaccination rates are low.
Some directors feared the tenure would result in more staff retiring if they didn’t want to get the shot and were already considering leaving due to burnout. Others were happy to have political and legal cover to adopt a policy they said they wished they could have done sooner, Henderson said.
“I won’t say he was universally applauded or condemned [among the rural hospitals]. It started out as, “We’re conservative, independent rural Texans who generally don’t like being told what to do,” Henderson said. “This morning I started to have a more positive reaction… Most private hospitals in Texas already required it from their staff. You don’t want a different standard between public and private, and when everyone is in the same boat and has to jump together, it helps in staffing the musical chairs that we somehow expected.
The Texas Hospital Association, which represents the state’s nearly 650 hospitals – about 20% of which are public – said it is still reviewing Biden’s announcement and its impact.
“We’re definitely all for sending the message that people should get vaccinated, and we support efforts that are increasing the number of Texans vaccinated,” spokeswoman Carrie Williams said. “We are taking a close look at this and all of its impacts going forward. “
Disclosure: The Texas Hospital Association has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.
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