Many hospitals, including HCA, Advent, and Tenet, have removed the coronavirus vaccine requirement for employment as they face staff shortages and surges in COVID cases, deciding that unvaccinated workers are better than no workers.
Hospitals claim they’re pausing the mandate as the federal vaccine-or-test requirement works through the courts, and as some state lawmakers consider a bill to ban mandating COVID vaccines that don’t have full FDA approval.
Specifically, Nashville, TN-based HCA Healthcare Inc. and Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., which combined operate more than 250 hospitals and more than 2,400 healthcare facilities across the country, have dropped their vaccine mandates.
In November, St. Louis-based US District Judge Matthew Schelp issued a preliminary injunction that said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) lacked the authority by Congress to execute a vaccination directive for providers included in healthcare programs for the poor, disabled and elderly.
This injunction blew President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandate right out of the water. The mandate had required all workers at facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid to get second shots by January 4.
The AHA estimates that only around 42 percent of US hospitals currently have COVID vaccine mandates in place, despite studies that link higher vaccination rates to fewer COVID deaths at health facilities including nursing homes.
Many hospitals were struggling to find workers, including nurses, before the pandemic. However, once the pandemic hit the US, the shortages were compounded by burnout among many medical workers and the lure of high pay rates offered to nurses who travel to hot spots on short-term contracts.
Wade Symons at consulting firm Mercer tells the Wall Street Journal that the healthcare industry has seen a “mass exodus” of thousands of nurses who don’t want to get vaccinated, and facilities without mandates “could be a magnet for those people.”