Mandates set forth by the Biden-Harris administration requiring healthcare facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid to have staff vaccinated against COVID-19 is now affecting local entities.

The Benewah Community Hospital (BCH) and Valley Vista Care Corporation (VVCC) have until November 30 to make sure all of its employees are vaccinated against COVID-19. Those who do not want to be vaccinated can apply for religious or medical exemptions according to BCH and VVCC CEO Chuck Lloyd.

Lloyd said the new procedures were introduced to staff last Thursday, November 11.

“We are all working through this together,” Lloyd said. “What I’ve heard is obviously there are people who are not happy.”

“People are upset the government is mandating this when they believe they should have a choice,” he added.

Lloyd said that the hospital has to comply with the mandate or they will lose their agreement with CMS that allows for Medicare and Medicaid funding.

“If we don’t comply we will lose our funding,” he said. “We would lose our facilities that we have for our community.”

Lloyd said that there is a high vaccination rate among staff at BCH and VVCC. He said 88 percent of staff at BCH have been vaccinated and around 90 percent of staff at VVCC have been as well.

The way that both facilities will now hire new employees will change as well with the new procedures in place. New hires will also have to be vaccinated or be religiously or medically exempt.

“We are doing our best to support and educate employees on the vaccine,” Lloyd said. “Overall our goal is to ensure we can provide services for our community.”

Lloyd said he is unsure how CMS will enforce or hold healthcare facilities accountable with the mandates set forth by the Biden-Harris administration.

Those who seek religious exemptions must fill out an application showing that they have a ‘sincerely held belief’ that prevents them from getting the vaccine or if the vaccine will cause undue hardship on that belief.

Medical exemptions from the vaccine are trickier according to the CDC as it has defined that there are no currently known illnesses that would prevent someone from receiving the vaccine.

The main concern so far for medical exemptions are concerns with allergic reactions to ingredients in the vaccine.

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