Health systems pause COVID-19 vaccination mandates amid challenges to CMS policy

Several hospitals and health systems across the U.S. have suspended COVID-19 vaccination mandates since the end of November, when a federal judge in Missouri temporarily blocked CMS from enforcing its nationwide order.

Litigation is pending in 10 states over the CMS vaccination mandate, and the agency suspended enforcement of it Dec. 2. The mandate would have required all healthcare workers without exemptions, including those at hospitals and surgery centers, to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

Health systems, including Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare and Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, paused their own vaccination mandates in states without separate mandates. Both chains have hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers within their networks.

Cleveland Clinic also halted its policy requiring employees to receive the vaccination, and hospitals in Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and Michigan have done the same.

When CMS originally announced the mandate in September, some ASC owners worried they would lose staff who chose not to be vaccinated. Others already had vaccination mandates implemented, often to comply with state mandates or their partnering hospital's policies.

But the specter of future mandates still looms large on ASCs.

"The inconsistency of the COVID-19 vaccination mandate places ASCs, as well as healthcare systems, in a unique compromising position to deliver quality care critical for the health and well-being of the communities served," John Peluso, administrator of Aestique Surgery Center in Greensburg, Pa., told Becker's. "Few issues are as important as the challenges facing the healthcare workforce, such as retirement, burnout, staff shortages, etc., many of which were present prior to the pandemic and are now only exacerbated and accelerated by the vaccine mandate."


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