SMH Won't Require Vaccines Absent CMS Direction Change

Todays News

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System isn’t enforcing vaccine mandates on its own employees. But CEO David Verinder said he’s still very much encouraging individuals to get the shot.

“We were always following the court rules, the federal rules and the state rules and trying to thread the needle between all that,” Verinder said.

President Joe Biden earlier this year issued a mandate, enforced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, for health care workers to have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine or obtain an appropriate waiver. But Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law last month that forbid such mandates in Florida.

With the state and federal direction in conflict, Verinder in a memo to employees earlier this month said the hospital had to operate under the federal direction because violating that would put payments from Medicaid and Medicare at risk.

Then this week, a federal judge in Louisiana put a halt to all such mandates nationwide. “As soon as the federal court in Louisiana issues a stay on that CMS order, we backed off within a half an hour of that,” Verinder said.

On Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals issued another ruling allowing the mandate to be enforced in 26 states, including Florida. But for the moment, CMS has suspended its own mandate with litigation regarding other states pending. “We will be looking to CMS for further guidance before we implement our own vaccine policy,” said SMH Public Relations Manager Kim Savage.

But while it won’t mandate employees get the jab, the hospital continues to work one-on-one with its employees who have concerns about vaccinations. Doctors working with the hospital have aggressively pushed for the wider community to get vaccines to contain the pandemic. Save said about 85% of SMH staff members have gotten the shot.

“We are highly encouraging people to get vaccinated,” Verinder said.

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