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by Brenda Grose
Proof of vaccination or an exemption letter will now be required at Ringgold County Hospital and Mount Ayr Medical Clinic. That was the decision shared by Amy Mobley, CNO and Missy Walter, CFO at the regular monthly meeting of RCH’s board of trustees, Monday November 15.
The news came in response to mandates from Central Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicating facilities would not receive payment from either of those two entities without such a policy in place.
“Our hands are tied” in this situation, according to Mobley and Walter. Mobley indicated this news would be given to department heads of the hospital and clinic Tuesday afternoon, (November 16) followed by a letter to all employees.
In further clarification, Mobley, stated that while there is a stay in place (fifth circuit court of appeals reaffirmed November 12) against the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandate requested by President Joe Biden, CMS supersedes OSHA. This leaves medical facilities specifically under the mandate of CMS.
Walter stated there are currently ten states joined in a lawsuit against the CMS mandate including: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Additionally, twenty-five states have joined a lawsuit against the OSHA mandate and include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas,, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The requirement deadline set by CMS is for a first vaccination by December 6 and full vaccination by January 4, 2022. Employees at RCH/MAMC will need to provide proof of vaccination or an accepted exemption letter by these dates. Testing periodically is not an allowed option under the CMS mandate.
Mobley stated guidance has been received on the exemptions and went on to say, “the medical exemption is pretty standard, cut and dried, while the religious or philosophical exemption will be harder to determine.”
A group of staff has been established to set policy and procedures with this new requirement and Mobley did indicate “going forward, different standards and PPE protocols will be in place” for those vaccinated and those unvaccinated.
In the financial report, Walter presented a positive picture for the month. Walter stated, “from an income statement standpoint, it was a good month” and “good to see more green on the charts than red.”
Income was $278,000 ahead of budget for the month, with contractuals lower, patient days were nearly double budgeted days and surgery cases and ER visits as well as both clinics, MAMC and specialty clinics all saw greater numbers. Net patient revenue was $2.2M year to date, but was still $121,000 lower than budget. On the expense side, most areas came in under-budget with benefits still running a little high due to contract labor in anesthesia and radiology. The month ended with a bottom line of $98,000 ahead of budget. Year-to-date is still looking at a big loss, but in Walter’s words, “we will just continue to chip away at it.”
Adam Kaster, a current employee, has completed work to be a full paramedic and will continue working in the Emergency Medical Services in that role.
Hannah Dentlinger, RCH Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT), will be training on the technique of dry needling which treats muscle tissue and trigger points.
LPN students from Southwestern Community College (SWCC) started clinicals at RCH this month (November) and RN students from SWCC will be starting their clinicals after the first of the year.
Rounding out the meeting, Mercy representative Sandra Christensen summed up the current climate in health care.
“We need to be looking at how to continue to be voices and advocates as things come down including staffing issues, diversity and inclusion issues, increased costs, staffing needs and the ongoing vaccine mandate,” she said.
A tall order for local health care providers and facilities.