ASC administrators worried about a staffing shortage when the COVID-19 vaccination mandate hit Dec. 6 can breathe a sigh of relief, for now. A federal judge issued an injunction to temporarily stop the CMS mandate for healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.
A federal court in Missouri issued an order Nov. 29 that halted the mandate in 10 states, and Judge Terry Doughty issued the preliminary injunction the next day to cover all U.S. states. The CMS mandate would have required 10.8 million healthcare workers, including 2.4 million unvaccinated individuals, to become fully vaccinated or face penalties.
When CMS announced the mandate in September, ASC administrators scrambled to meet the requirements.
"CMS announcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate to include ASCs impacts us significantly," Brock Kreienbrink, RN, administrator and director of nursing at Outpatient Surgery Center of Central Florida in Ocala, told Becker's. "We are in a market with an extreme labor shortage, and this will just add even more stress to our labor shortage."
Mr. Kreienbrink wasn't alone. Several other administrators have been anxious about whether the mandate would prompt resignations, especially as staffing shortages already put ASCs at a disadvantage. Surgery centers often are unable to compete with the large sign-on bonuses hospitals offer to nurses.
If the federal government does move forward with mandates in the future, Joe Peluso, administrator of Aestique Surgery Center in Greensburg, Pa., said he hopes the effort will be more thoughtful about protecting small practices and organizations.
"CMS needs to provide clear and specific information, including appropriate safeguards to preserve access to care in local communities with adequate staffing," he told Becker's. "CMS needs to also provide adequate time and consideration for providers to come into compliance with any new mandate. The penalty for noncompliance will be removal from Medicare and Medicaid payments, which would jeopardize providers' financial viability and threaten their ability to provide care to communities."
The federal judge said that a government agency should not be able to mandate healthcare workers be vaccinated, and he was doubtful about whether a mandate by Congress would be constitutional.
Click here to read more about the injunction.