CRH hits the ‘pause button’ on mandatory vaccinations

Mike Wolanin | The Republic An exterior view of Columbus Regional Hospital in Columbus, Ind., pictured, Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Columbus Regional Health has suspended its efforts to comply with a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers while a challenge to the requirement makes its way through the court system.

CRH officials said Monday they were “in a holding pattern” just two weeks after the hospital system and Schneck Medical Center in Seymour announced that they would require all employees, medical staff, students, volunteers and contractors to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

The federal mandate, issued last month, requires healthcare facilities that receive funds from the Medicare and Medicaid programs to ensure all employees are vaccinated by Jan. 4, a measure that would affect millions of workers across the country, including at least 3,300 in the Columbus area.

Health care facilities that do not comply with the federal requirement risk possible payment denials and termination from the Medicare and Medicaid programs. More than half of all patients at CRH and Schneck are covered by one of the two federal programs, the hospitals said in a joint statement on Nov. 23.

But just days before the first deadline in the mandate, a federal judge in Louisiana last week issued a preliminary injunction to block the mandate from taking effect.

The legal challenge was brought by several states including Indiana and the order came one day after a federal judge in Missouri issued an injunction in a similar lawsuit filed by other states.

Sunday would have been the deadline for workers at CRH and Schneck to submit proof that they have received their first dose of a two-dose vaccine, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson or apply for an exemption, according to the joint statement from the hospitals.

For the complete story, see Tuesday’s Republic.