Covid-19 vaccine mandate for health-care workers ended in mid-June, but some major Kentucky hospitals still have such policies

By Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News

About a month ago, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services withdrew its requirement that health-care workers get a Covid-19 vaccination, and while the final rule won’t be official until on or about Aug. 5, CMS has said it does not intend to enforce staff vaccination requirements before that date.

Kentucky Health News checked with a few of the larger hospital systems in Kentucky to see if they had changed their policy and found that a few of them had, but others are still considering it. 

Maggie Roetker, Norton Healthcare‘s director of public relations, told the Louisville Courier Journal in mid-June that the hospital system had ended its Covid-19 vaccination policy for all employees, effective immediately. 

Roetker said the update on vaccine mandates goes along with new regulations enacted by accrediting agency DNV along with CMS and its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services.

“While Covid-19 vaccination is no longer a requirement for employees, volunteers, vendors and contractors, we do still recommend it to reduce the risk and protect each other and our patients,” she told the CJ. “The vaccine is also recommended for people who are at risk of medical complications due to the virus.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare, which has 14 hospitals in Kentucky and West VIrginia, said it has changed its policy. 

“As of July 3, the Appalachian Regional Healthcare system is no longer mandating that employees at any of our locations in eastern Kentucky or southern West Virginia be vaccinated for Covid-19. While not mandated, the vaccine is still available for all employees who want to receive it,” Melissa Cornett, assistant vice president of corporate communications for ARH, said in an email. 

However, UK HealthCareBaptist Health and CHI Saint Joseph Health still have their Covid-19 vaccine mandates in place. 

“UK HealthCare has reviewed the changes in the Covid vaccine federal requirements and is currently determining the impacts to our workforce and determining next steps,” Kristi Willett, executive director, public relations and strategic communications for the University of Kentucky, said in an email. 

Rebecca Brown, associate vice president of marketing for Baptist Health, said in an email, “Baptist Health still has its Covid-19 vaccination requirement in place. We are aware of the federal changes. Our clinicians are still reviewing and working through the reporting requirements for CMS. As we address those requirements, we will make a determination on any policy changes.”

Mary Branham, market director for marketing and communications at CHI Saint Joseph Health said in an email, ” We require a number of vaccinations, including the Covid-19 and flu vaccinations, to ensure the safety of each other and for those who rely on us for safe care, often when they are most vulnerable. This is imperative to our mission as a faith-based Catholic ministry. We continue to provide a process for religious and medical exemptions for those who qualify.” 

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash