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    (FILE PHOTO | THE GRAHAM LEADER) Graham Regional Medical Center announced Wednesday it would be suspending action related to a COVID-19 vaccine requirement through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

GRMC reverses action on CMS mandate

Graham Regional Medical Center announced Wednesday it has suspended action related to a COVID-19 vaccine requirement through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The announcement was made following a federal judge in Louisiana issuing a preliminary injunction preventing CMS from enforcing the vaccine requirement for healthcare workers nationally.

GRMC made a statement on its  Facebook Wednesday that it has suspended any action related to the CMS requirement pending resolution in higher courts. The hospital announced details last month regarding the requirement which was issued Friday, Nov. 5, by CMS, and covered healthcare facilities who participated in the Medicare program.

Under the requirements through CMS, applicable healthcare facilities must make sure all eligible staff and business associates obtain the first dose of a two-dose vaccine no later than Dec. 5, 2021, with the second dose no later than Jan. 4, 2022. Eligible staff and business associates may also choose to obtain one dose of a single dose vaccine no later than Dec. 5, 2021. Eligible staff and businesses can also have an approved medical exemption or religious accommodation on file by Dec. 5, 2021.

The GRMC board met Thursday, Nov. 18, and spoke about the CMS mandate, emphasizing the differences between the healthcare mandate and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccination mandate.

“That (OSHA mandate) does not pertain to us,” GRMC CEO Shane Kernell said. “We are healthcare which is under a separate mandate through CMS. That rule is through Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and is tied to the condition of participation in that service. So we elect to be a Medicare participating facility like all 6,000 hospitals pretty much in the United States (...). Ambulatory service, surgical centers, hospice, home health, nursing homes, anyone that takes Medicare and as a participant in Medicare is under that rule. So that’s a separate rule. They are not under the OSHA rule. So that one (OSHA) has recently been challenged by a couple of states, one is including Texas has filed suit to the federal government. We’ll see where that goes. They filed that suit in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals out of New Orleans as well. And we will see where it goes. But that being said, it’s a rule we have to abide by as a participant in that Medicare program. If we do not abide by that condition of participation, there are penalties upon a survey when they come in and survey us. And those penalties could be up to losing your Medicare if you’re not compliant. So it’s pretty serious. It’s the big gun that the federal government uses on health care. Now, where it goes, I’m not here to prognosticate, I’m not here to give my opinion on that. I’m just giving you information. That’s the mandate and so, we’re doing our best to abide by that.”

The hospital wrote online that failure to comply with the CMS mandate will bring fines and denial of payment upon the facility. There is also the chance of additional penalties such as the loss of Medicare certification and the termination of other payer contracts. The hospital wrote on their Facebook page Tuesday, Nov. 16 that these actions would make the hospital financially inoperable. GRMC at that time had  implemented a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to ensure compliance with the federal regulation.

For the rest of the story, see the Dec. 4 edition of The Graham Leader.

The Graham Leader

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