Some of the country’s largest hospital systems have been forced to rescind their Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandates for their employees in the wake of several court rulings. Concerns regarding labor shortages also prevented them from coercing their workers to get the vaccine under the threat of unemployment.

Health systems all over the country either voluntarily instituted COVID-19 vaccine mandates or did so after the Biden administration ordered them to do so. President Joe Biden’s rule affected some 10 million workers in the healthcare industry. The order forced healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

But in November, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not have the authority to enforce the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. 

In response to the federal judge’s ruling, some of the country’s largest hospital systems have started rolling back their mandates. They claim that the rescinding of the order is also in response to the fact that the vaccine mandate has aggravated their staffing shortages.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals around the country already struggled to find workers and retain the ones they did hire. Once the pandemic hit, labor costs soared through the roof.

Hospitals were forced to lure new staff in with higher pay rates. Those that could not afford to keep up with the rise in labor costs struggled to retain enough staff, leading to shortages in nurses, technicians and even janitors. This led to their inability to handle higher hospitalization rates in recent months caused by post-vaccine outbreaks among the fully vaccinated.

Millions of workers no longer have to deal with vaccine mandates

Some of the largest hospital groups that have rescinded their COVID-19 vaccine mandates include Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, Christian non-profit healthcare system AdventHealth, the Cleveland Clinic and HCA Healthcare.

Combined, these health systems comprise more than 300 hospitals and employ nearly 600,000 people.

“We continue to strongly encourage our colleagues to be vaccinated as a critical step to protect individuals from the virus and the majority of HCA Healthcare colleagues have been fully vaccinated,” wrote a representative for HCA Healthcare in a statement. He added that the vaccine mandate stays in place in California and Colorado, states that have their own mandates for healthcare workers.

AdventHealth and Tenet also said they would stop requiring their employees to be vaccinated after the court’s decision. But they added that workers in states that mandate vaccination must comply with local laws.

To circumvent the vaccine mandate, the Cleveland Clinic said it would impose safety measures on its unvaccinated staff, such as regular forced COVID-19 testing.

Many other healthcare systems were relieved to hear that the federal mandate for healthcare workers was blocked.

“I don’t think the mandates were helpful, and I think the court in Louisiana did everyone a service,” said Alan Levine, CEO of Ballad Health, which runs 21 hospitals in Tennessee and Virginia. Levine has 14,000 employees, about 2,000 of whom remain unvaccinated and did not request an exemption to the federal mandate. “That many people having to be terminated would have been devastating to our system.”

Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association, said that many hospital administrations that are part of his association expressed the same concerns as Levine.

“Some rural hospitals are determining we can’t keep our doors open if we proceed with a mandate,” said Morgan. “We’re not against the mandates, but there has to be a plan in place, or else there will be shortages in rural towns.”

Hospital administrators are particularly concerned with paramedics and ambulance drivers, many of whom outright refused to get the vaccine. “Almost every single hospital physician I talk to brings up the problem of EMS [emergency medical service] staff,” said Morgan.

Many other hospital systems are refusing to get rid of their vaccine mandate despite the federal judge’s ruling. Kaiser Permanente, which runs 39 hospitals and hundreds of medical offices and employs more than 200,000 people, has already fired 352 of its workers for refusing to get vaccinated. Another 1,500 are set to be terminated in early January unless they get fully vaccinated or receive an exemption.

Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York with over 77,000 employees, also announced that its mandate remains in place. It has already terminated 1,400 employees for refusing to take the experimental and deadly vaccine. The health system has also pledged to discriminate against the unvaccinated by refusing to consider them for employment.



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