By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Many of Wyoming’s hospitals are welcoming a temporary halt to the enforcement of a federal mandate that their employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Eric Boley, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, said he has heard from a number of hospital officials who said they were glad to learn of a stay on the mandate, even though no one knows how long it will be in place.
“I heave heard from many of them around the state that there are many that are relieved,” he said.
As part of his proposed vaccine mandate, President Joe Biden called for the full immunization of all health care workers. Under rules issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health care facilities whose employees have not received at least the first dose of the vaccine could lose Medicare and Medicaid funds.
Wyoming and nine other states sued the CMS, claiming the agency lacked the authority to implement the requirement and a federal judge in Missouri on Monday issued a preliminary injunction to block the requirement. Judge Matthew Schelp ruled that in trial, the states would probably be successful in their claims.
The injunction is in place in the 10 participating states at least until hearings into the lawsuit itself can begin. As a result, the length of time it will be in place is not known.
“Who knows what it means in the long run,” Boley said. “At least for right now, they don’t have to worry about it.”
During the recent special session of Wyoming’s Legislature, a number of health care facility officials testified that their facilities are already short-staffed and the vaccine mandate could drive more employees away from health care, leaving the facilities unable to treat patients.
Protests have also been held at several Wyoming hospitals by health care workers who object to the mandate.
Boley said the WHA opposes the mandate, but not the vaccine itself.
“We shared testimony during the special session that we oppose the mandate, but we also believe the vaccine is the answer to getting us through this pandemic,” he said.
The stay on the federal government’s rules will have no impact on the private employers such as Banner Health which have issued their own requirements for their employees to receive the vaccine, Boley said.
The announcement of the stay was welcomed Monday by Gov. Mark Gordon, who also expressed concerns about the impact the mandate could have on health care employment.