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Incentives boosted hospital staff vaccination rates in South Florida. Mandates did more

Daniel Chang, Miami Herald on

Published in Health & Fitness

“It was all about education, education, education,” Fernandez said. “Having a highly vaccinated workforce provides safety not just for our workers but also for the patients.”

Federal regulators have not yet begun to track and report staff vaccination rates for hospitals, but the stakes are high. Those medical providers that do not comply with the new rules risk losing access to Medicare and Medicaid, the largest payers in the U.S. health care system. And unlike the federal vaccination requirement for businesses, the rules for medical providers do not make an exception for those employers that allow workers to be tested regularly instead of taking the vaccine.

But while medical providers now have a date certain for vaccinating their employees, many are still working to understand how the rules will be enforced and whether the federal mandate will interact with any state laws prohibiting COVID-19 mandates.

Florida’s Legislature passed four bills on Wednesday to curb mask and vaccine mandates, concluding a three-day special session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis to push back against the Biden administration’s proposed rule for businesses with 100 or more employees.

Mandate or persuade?

Wary of the governor’s frequent warnings against vaccine and mask mandates, many of South Florida’s taxpayer-owned hospitals opted for policies that encouraged but did not require vaccination.

 

Broward Health, the taxpayer-owned health care system for the northern half of the county, did not make significant changes to its employee policy on the COVID-19 vaccine, said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, chief medical officer.

About half of Broward Health’s workforce of 8,000 people were vaccinated in August. As of November, Lenchus said, “We’re probably between 50 and 60%.”

Lenchus said Broward Health administrators have worked to educate employees and answer their questions about the vaccines, and that they are still learning exactly what the federal regulations will require and how that will be reported and enforced.

“We will be prepared for whatever happens,” Lenchus said. “We’re really trying to work at just getting the infrastructure set up to collect thousands of people’s information and being able to report that as required.”

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