MURRAY – The Biden Administration officially announced on Nov. 4 two vaccination policies that will affect local hospitals. These policies state that any employer with 100 or more employees, as well as any health care facility that participates in Medicare and Medicaid programs, must be fully vaccinated. 

The first policy was set by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the latter was set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services. Murray-Calloway County Hospital CEO Jerry Penner explained that the policy states employees must have their initial vaccine by Dec. 5, and the second dose required by Jan. 4, 2022. He also said that the booster shot is not part of the vaccine mandate, at this time. 

Penner said he notified his staff on Nov. 5 of the policies.

“There is a lot of consternation on part of some of our staff,” Penner said. “And surely we are trying to be as respectful of their position as we possibly can be, but still making sure we are going to follow the intent of the policy and the guidelines of the law.”

Penner said that several hundred employees have already been vaccinated.

“Probably the bigger question is how many have not been (vaccinated),” Penner said. “There’s probably a few hundred that have not been vaccinated.” 

He also said the hospital will be offering religious or medical exemptions and have several employees who will be applying for these. Penner explained that those who do not qualify for either exemption and still have not received their first vaccination by Dec. 5 will be placed on suspension. If any employee still is not vaccinated by the final day, then they could potentially be terminated. 

As of Nov. 10, Penner reported that the hospital has not lost an employee because of the policies. He believes the reason is that 26 states have filed lawsuits against OSHA and 12 states have filed against CMS. According to U.S., Kentucky was one of the states to file against OSHA, but they have not filed against CMS. Penner said that while the lawsuits could change the outcome of the policies, the hospital will continue as if the lawsuits are not in place. 

“I realize this is a very tough decision for many folks and many of our staff,” Penner said. “And they are kind of doing their own soul searching trying to make sure they are making good decisions for themselves and their families. Having the loss of any employee would be heart rendering to all of us. We have a great staff that has come through (tough times) in the last two years (and) now all of a sudden they are staring at a mandate and everyone has their different reasons (on getting vaccinated or not).”