The law of unintended consequences continues to manifest itself.
Texas leads the nation in rural hospital closures, according to the Texas Organization for Rural and Community Hospitals.
That may grow worse as hospitals must wrestle with the Biden administration’s mandate that their workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Amid a decades-long nursing shortage, President Joe Biden’s decree might shut down Brownfield Regional Medical Center, CEO Jerry Jasper told KCBD-TV in Lubbock.
Not only are independent nursing agencies luring away Brownfield’s nurses with higher pay, but Jasper said he could lose 20 to 25 percent of his nursing staff to the vaccine mandate. Currently, members of his staff are encouraged but not required to take the shot.
Such staff losses will shut his hospital down, he said.
And there’s more: Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities must have vaccinated staff in order to receive government reimbursements, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That amounts to 80 to 85 percent of Brownfield’s revenue, Jasper said.
“It’s huge in our rural community as all the other rural communities. We all have high poverty levels and stuff like that, so a lot of Medicaid usage,” he told KCBD.
Larry Gray, CEO of the Seminole Hospital District, said such a funding loss would be “devastating.”
Gray told KCBD that 70 percent of his staff is vaccinated. He encourages workers to receive the shot and believes it’s safe, but he thinks the federal mandate is the wrong way to go about getting people vaccinated.
“I think the mandate is just a terrible message, because if the vaccinations are working, why do you have to mandate people to get vaccines?” he said. “What happened to individual choice and medical decisions between the patient and their doctor, which is all of the things that we’re trying to support?”
Jasper lamented the confusion caused by the tug-of-war between the Biden vaccine mandate and Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s prohibition of such mandates.
Gaps in the reimbursement programs are driving rural hospital closures in the state — 26 in the past decade, according to the Texas Organization for Rural and Community Hospitals.
“The upswing in Texas closures in the last decade is primarily driven by $50 million a year in Medicare cuts to Texas rural hospitals starting in 2013 … as well as $80+ million a year in underpayment by Texas Medicaid,” TORCH said in a news release.
AHA concerned federal vaccine mandate could exacerbate severe worker shortage https://t.co/23UKyG7j17
— TORCH (@torchnet) September 13, 2021
Take a look at the numbers Jasper and Gray put forth regarding unvaccinated health care workers: 20 to 25 percent of nurses in Jasper’s facility, 30 percent of staff in Gray’s.
“Administrators at rural hospitals [in Texas] say they’re frustrated & concerned after President Joe Biden mandated all hospital staff get the COVID-19 vaccine … Jasper says losing [25% of his unvaxxed staff] would probably shut them down.” https://t.co/g88ddS0kOm
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) September 15, 2021
These people — health care professionals — have obviously made conscious decisions about not being vaccinated and now must choose presumably between their informed judgment of their own good health and keeping their jobs.
Some of these health care workers have tirelessly worked through the pandemic. They lament that one minute they’re hailed as heroes and the next they’re treated as pariahs.
And with the top-down Biden mandate, rural Texans (and probably other Americans) may lose their hospitals.
The law of unintended consequences again raises its head.
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