Hospitals in Southwest Florida complying with vaccine mandate after Supreme Court decision

Published: January 14, 2022 4:50 PM EST
Updated: January 14, 2022 6:31 PM EST

Hospitals nationwide are now forced to enforce a vaccine mandate for frontline workers.

But can hospitals afford to lose more staff members due to the Supreme Court approval of the mandate?

Southwest Florida hospitals are saying they are going to comply with the order.

The Supreme Court blocked the mandate for big businesses but allowed the Biden administration to mandate vaccines for the large majority of healthcare workers.

Dr. Marisssa Levine, director of public health at the University of South Florida, said there’s a lot of concern because hospitals are already shortstaffed.

“Not only because of just numbers of people able and competent enough to meet the need, but also the fact that staff are getting sick too, from omicron,” Levine said.

Now some staff will refuse to comply with the mandate and walk away.

Mary Mayhew, president of Florida’s Hospital Association, said some hospitals don’t have a choice.

NCH already had a mandate. Lee Health did not but now will.

“We’re following the, you know, the CMS guidelines and gathering all of our vaccination information from our staff, our vendors of volunteers, etc,” Lee Health CEO and President Larry Antonucci said earlier this week.

The state legislature passed a series of laws banning vaccine mandates last November.

The state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration announced it won’t force compliance.

For most hospitals, that likely doesn’t matter.

“It doesn’t change the fact that hospitals are obligated to comply with the Medicare program because of their role in serving millions of elderly Floridians,” Mayhew said.

Mayhew said hospitals are working closely with the state and the federal government to avoid any fines.

Mary Daniel’s husband has Alzheimer’s. He lives in a nursing home far away from her. Now, she is concerned about how the mandate will affect staffing at the nursing home.

She became famous after taking a job as a dishwasher in March of 2020 at the nursing home after it closed to the public in order to be closer to her husband.

“We tend to see residents who are just sitting around doing nothing all day, they’re not being engaged, their minds are not being stimulated,” Daniel said.

That is Mike Phillips’ greatest concern. He is the ombudsman for long-term care in Florida.

While he worries about the isolation of residents, he also believes those residents with nowhere else to go should be forced to be cared for by unvaccinated staff.

“You are now shifting that risk to a resident in a long-term care facility, and I don’t believe you have the right to do that,” he said.

While hospitals and nursing homes struggle with the changing rules, the ruling may have scored political points for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Een on the Medicaid, Medicare side, in some ways, politically, it’ll be a win because it still allows him to rail against the Biden administration and the overreach of the biomedical security state, as he described it, you know, in his State of the State address, and so that’ll keep his base fired up,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the Univesity of Central Florida. “It’ll probably keep the contributions rolling in.”

Jewett said he expects DeSantis will use this in his bid for re-election and if he decided to run for president in 2024.