Area hospitals to comply with federal vaccine mandate

Published 5:25 pm Thursday, November 11, 2021

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On November 4, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs to protect health care workers, patients, families and visitors from COVID-19. CMS is very clear that non-compliance with this mandate will result in severe penalties to hospitals, up to and including exclusion from participation in Medicare.

Several Knoxville-area hospital organizations (Blount Memorial Hospital, Covenant Health, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Sweetwater Hospital Association and The University of Tennessee Medical Center) have just issued a joint statement saying they are planning to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate “so that we can effectively continue to provide care in our communities, including caring for our patients who rely on Medicare.”

To be compliant with the CMS mandate, all covered individuals are to have initiated the first dose of the primary COVID-19 vaccine series or received a single dose of the one-dose vaccine by December 5, 2021, and must complete the two-dose series to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022, unless they qualify and are approved for a religious or medical exemption to the vaccine. Clinical, non-clinical and medical staff, as well as students, volunteers, contracted employees and vendors are required to follow the mandate.

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The mandate outlines specific requirements for facilities to continue participating in the Medicare program and for team members to be permitted to provide care for patients.

“All of our dedicated team members are important to us, and like hospitals across the country, we have faced staffing challenges created by the pandemic. However, team members must be in compliance with the vaccine deadlines in order to continue working at our facilities.

“Our hospital organizations have strongly encouraged COVID-19 vaccinations to protect individuals from the virus. We have actively provided COVID-19 vaccinations for our team members and our communities. The majority of our organizations’ employees are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Our desire is to work with all our team members to move toward compliance with the federal rule through our vaccination and exemption process. Throughout all episodes of care, our hospital organizations are steadfast in our commitment to provide the care needed for our patients and our communities,” reads the statement.