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RMC: Vaccine mandatory; hospital could lose employees as result: CEO

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Regional Medical Center

Regional Medical Center employees must receive their first COVID-19 vaccination by Feb. 14.

Regional Medical Center employees must get vaccinated following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

“We are going to comply with the vaccine mandate and abide by the U.S. Supreme Court decision,” RMC CEO and President David Southerland said.

RMC currently employs about 1,300. About 900 are estimated to be fully vaccinated.

Southerland said some of employees have expressed their disagreement with the vaccine mandate.

“We do anticipate we may lose a few employees,” he said.

Under the federal mandate, employees who have not been vaccinated will have to receive their first shot by Monday, Feb. 14, “except those with a pending exemption request and those whose vaccination was temporarily delayed per CDC recommendations,” Southerland wrote in a letter to hospital employees about the mandate.

The deadline for the second shot is March 15, 2022.

“This policy applies to any individual who performs duties at any RMC facility or has the potential to have contact with anyone at any facility, including staff, contractors, or patients, regardless of whether they have clinical responsibility or patient contact,” Southerland said in the letter. “This includes all current staff and new staff.”

Individuals covered by the policy include, but are not limited to, facility employees, administrative staff, clinical staff, licensed practitioners, students, trainees and volunteers. This policy also applies to any individual under contract or other arrangement with the facility, Southerland said.

“Please note that this policy implementation is not based on a decision made by RMC administration or Board of Trustees,” Southerland said. “This was a decision made by the United States Supreme Court that would have major implications for RMC should it not comply.”

“If RMC does not comply, the organization is subject to not receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments, which makes up approximately 75% of RMC revenue,” Southerland wrote.

“We know that being the frontline of a global pandemic has not been easy on you or your loved ones,” Southerland continued in the letter. “The RMC senior leadership team and board of trustees appreciate all of your dedication, hard work and perseverance over the last two years.”

Southerland did note RMC, in accordance with the mandate ruling, is going to allow a religious and medical or health exemption.

“We have received approximately 40-45 applications for religious exemptions and those are being evaluated at the present time,” Southerland said. “We know there are a few medical exemptions that we are anticipating that we will receive.”

The ruling does not provide for a weekly testing option.

Employees are required to wear masks.

The RMC trustees unanimously voted in November to require all employees to be vaccinated based on the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requirement that health care facilities with over 100 employees have a policy in place ensuring that eligible staff be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

Once the federal requirement was challenged, RMC delayed action until the matter could be resolved by the courts.

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