Recently issued EEOC guidance and the recent Texas federal court ruling strongly suggest that private employers, such as hospitals, can legally require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID as a condition of continued employment, subject to certain conditions related to disability and religion. Hospitals from coast to coast are requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID, as the highly contagious delta variant ravages populations with low vaccination rates. Upstate University Hospital suspended or terminated 113 employees who did not comply with the New York state deadline, according to a September statement. These employees represent about 5 percent of its total staff and have forced the hospital to suspend elective inpatient surgeries and cut other services.
Patients should have the right to expect their hospital to take all reasonable precautions to prevent them from developing a new illness they did not have at the time of admission. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced today that emergency regulations requiring vaccination of nursing home workers will be expanded to include hospitals, dialysis centres, ambulatory surgery centres and home health agencies, among others, as a condition of participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programmes. The hospital could require the employee to mask and distance themselves, assign them to a work area without exposure to others, or allow them to work remotely. Disease-causing organisms can easily spread from patients to healthcare workers and then to other patients on a hospital floor.
At the time, 165 of the provider's unvaccinated staff had not yet indicated whether they would comply with the regulations or leave the single-hospital system. Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine told local press that forcing the remaining 38% of unvaccinated workers in the 22-hospital system to be vaccinated would likely exacerbate the current shortage of nursing staff. The regulatory approval of Pfizer-BioNTech's Comirnaty for those 16 and older initiated an additional wave of requirements for numerous hospitals and health systems. Meanwhile, the region's largest public hospital, Parkland Health & Hospital System, said it agrees with the decisions made by other hospital systems, but is constrained by the Governor's decision.
Providence has announced that all 120,000 healthcare facility employees (in states where it is permitted) will be required to comply with a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy by September. Bartlett Regional Hospital is reportedly requiring its employees to be vaccinated, but has not yet detailed a deadline. Akron Children's Hospital has informed its approximately 6,500 employees that it will require vaccination against COVID-19, but has not specified a deadline.