Support Local Journalism

With the threat of losing as much as 60% percent of Franklin County Medical Center’s business, the FCMC board of trustees voted on Nov. 10 to accept a policy requiring all employees either to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or to have an approved medical or religious exemption by Jan. 4, 2022.

On Nov. 6, FCMC administration notified its staff of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of the mandate. Between then and the board’s vote, some FCMC staff resigned. Dr. Daniel Patten was one of them. He saw no patients on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10, but rescinded his resignation after discussing the exemption possibilities with hospital administration and board members. Other staff followed suit.

Nonetheless, he was disturbed by the board’s decision.

“I did feel better, but I am still very leery of how the committee acts, and to me it’s a big gamble. … I am leery of how accepting the committee will be,” said Patten.

The committee tasked with reviewing exemptions for approval will be in-house, said Stevie Emerson, marketing director at FCMC. “One committee will include a FCMC attorney. …all exemptions, names and identifying details will be redacted before they are given to the committee to review to ensure privacy and keep the decision unbiased,” she said.

FCMC board trustees said accepting the policy was a choice made to keep the center open. Specifically, they had to decide which loss would be a bigger hit to the center — losing Medicaid/Medicare reimbursements and all the patients who depend on that federal funding for their medical needs, or taking the chance that staff will walk away from jobs that require them to get the COVID-19 vaccine, said trustee Shauna Geddes.

Either way, FCMC faces a loss of business, which in turn, affects the community.

The hospital does $1.1 million in business per month. With 362 employees, losing that payroll would have a big impact on the local economy.

“We are trying to make a decision not based on politics, but based on what’s right for the employees and the people that are getting care in the hospital,” said trustee Strat Roper. “Though I understand the people that are saying, ‘I don’t want a shot, because the government shouldn’t force me to get a shot.’ I understand that. But that wasn’t the reason why I supported the decision. I think as Dr. Patten said. He believes in the vaccination and we are trying to keep people healthy.”

Dr. Patten, who said he has been vaccinated, believes vaccination is a personal choice.

“What’s good for me, doesn’t mean it is good for a 20-year-old girl,” he said.

Resignations of other personnel were based on the same premise, say hospital employees.

One, Mariann Bradfield, said people in her family’s situation need the choice. Her husband was diagnosed with heart failure within a month of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. She herself, had medical problems being vaccinated for the H1N1 virus years ago, she said. Bradfield did not resign. She did, however, ask hospital officials to not accept the policy.

Although the exemption clause in the mandated vaccine policy eased worries for some employees, the hospital is in the same critical situation with or without the mandate.

“We have seen an uptick in patient needs over the past six months, some due to spikes in COVID and some is due to delayed treatment during the first year or so of the pandemic,” Emerson said. The population in Franklin County is also growing.

“In order to provide care, we need to have rooms and enough qualified staff. ...but this isn’t a new issue brought on by the mandate. As we announced and explained on Sept. 17, The State of Idaho has been operating under a ‘crisis standard of care’ since mid-September. This means the majority of the hospitals do not have resources to help everyone and they are not able to transfer patients to other facilities. We have been operating at or over capacity since then, but that exact census changes daily. If there is a discharged patient, we admit the next. If we cannot provide treatment, we call around to find a place that can admit and treat them. It truly has been day-by-day for quite some time now and it depends on how many rooms we have, how much staff we have, and how was can transfer a patient, if needed,” she said.

Nursing homes find themselves in the same situation.

“This mandate has really put us, and many other rural care and critical access facilities, in a tough situation to balance,” said Emerson. “Worst case scenario on either decision could potentially result in FCMC suspending some services to consolidate resources to provide critical care. It is an extreme outcome, but a reality many of us have to keep in mind. Nobody wants that and we are doing everything we can to accommodate the rights of our employees and the rules that have been set by CMS, all while we continue to provide the community access quality healthcare.”

Please be aware that Cache Valley Publishing does not endorse, and is not responsible for alleged employment offers in the comments.

Recommended for you