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CMS will not enforce vaccine rules during legal battle

Frustration grows at Lubbock hospitals as unvaccinated COVID-19 patients increase
Frustration grows at Lubbock hospitals as unvaccinated COVID-19 patients increase
Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 5:51 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 9:06 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lubbock’s two largest hospitals will not be laying off employees if they haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19 for the time being.

That’s because a federal district court in Louisiana put a temporary hold on enforcement of the vaccine mandate for health care facilities in all states.

CMS COVID-19 vaccination rules officially took effect on November 5, with a deadline that health care workers must be fully in compliance by January 4, 2022. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri issued a preliminary injunction to the implementation and enforcement of this mandate in ten states on November 29. The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued a nationwide preliminary injunction covering the remaining states on November 30.

“While CMS remains confident in its authority to protect the health and safety of patients in facilities funded by the Medicare and Medicaid programs, it has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of this rule pending future developments in the litigation,” CMS stated in updated documentation on Thursday.

Covenant workers are still encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine in case the requirements are restored. If that happens, and a worker is not compliant, that person could be removed from work schedules. For now, Covenant is encouraging its employees to keep submitting exemptions and appeals if they are denied.

Meanwhile, UMC CEO Mark Funderburk says UMC will also encourage employees to get vaccinated and will continue processing exemptions, but adds the “stay” supports the hospitals original stance of allowing employees to have a choice without consent.

Read the full statement from Covenant Health:

“Tuesday, a federal district court judge issued a temporary injunction to block the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rule regarding vaccine requirement or exemption for health care workers.

Covenant Health will abide by the Court’s decision. While the stay is in place, there will be no penalty to caregivers for not following previous CMS COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

We anticipate CMS will appeal the Court’s temporary injunction and we expect an additional review by the Court of Appeals and/or the U.S. Supreme Court, with decisions coming in either December or January.

Because we do not know what the courts will decide or when those decisions will be made, we have asked our caregivers to continue their efforts as planned. If they choose to be vaccinated, we have asked them to go ahead and receive that vaccination. If they choose to submit a religious or medical exemption for approval, we have asked them to submit those exemption requests as well.

Covenant Health wants to be as prepared as possible for whatever ruling may be decided in the coming months.”

Read the full statement from UMC CEO Mark Funderburk below:

“CMS just released a statement indicating it will not enforce the new rule regarding the vaccination of health care workers while there are court-ordered injunctions in place. As a result, UMC will encourage employees to be vaccinated and will continue processing exemptions. This stay supports our original stance of employee choice without consequence. We are grateful for this announcement. We love our staff and appreciate the continued support of our community.”

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