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Beebe, Bayhealth pause hard vaccine mandates

Katie Tabeling

A federal injunction has led Beebe Healthcare and Bayhealth to announce it would pause its hard vaccination policy for staff. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BEEBE HEALTHCARE

Both Beebe Healthcare and Bayhealth have walked back hard vaccine mandates after a federal judge blocked President Joe Biden’s policy that required health care workers to be vaccinated by Jan. 4.

Beebe President and CEO David Tam said that the southern Delaware hospital system will pause the policy as officials continue to monitor the federal courts.

“However, Beebe will continue to strongly urge all our employees to get vaccinated in accordance with our commitment to science, and the safety of our patients, employees, physicians, and the community. Beebe will act accordingly – following the science and the law,” Tam said in a statement to the Delaware Business Times.

Bayhealth also reportedly emailed all of its staff on Dec. 1, saying it will “strongly urge all employees to get vaccinated consistent with our commitment to maintaining a safe environment for all patients, employees, physicians and visitors,”  but will pause the mandate that threatened job termination for now, as reported by the News Journal.

Bayhealth officials confirmed to the Delaware Business Times it had paused efforts to meet the federal vaccine mandate this week.

“As a community health leader, Bayhealth is committed to maintaining a safe environment for all patients, employees, physicians and visitors. Bayhealth has paused efforts related to the mandate. Bayhealth will continue to comply with the state of Delaware vaccine mandate as we have since it was issued,” Bayhealth Vice President of Corporate Support Services Mike Metzing said. “Additionally, we continue to urge all our employees to be vaccinated. We remain grateful for our dedicated team of caregivers and physicians who have been on the front lines of this pandemic since day one.”

In November, Biden announced all health care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid would be required to vaccinate all its employees by 2022. Under Gov. John Carney’s earlier directive, health care workers must either be vaccinated or tested weekly as of October.

Earlier this week, Louisiana Western District U.S. Judge Terry Doughty ruled that Biden’s policy that impacted 17 million health care workers at 76,000 facilities that receive federal funding did not have the authority to bypass Congress. The injunction came just days before the Dec. 6 deadline to receive at least one shot.

Bayhealth, which has 4,300 employees, has not publicly disclosed how many of its staff have been vaccinated to date. Beebe has 2,850 employees in Sussex County. Under Gov. John Carney’s earlier directive, health care workers must either be vaccinated or tested weekly as of October.

At this time, Beebe maintains a staff vaccination rate higher than those who have received one shot in the state, which is around 82%.

In Delaware, six major health care systems employ nearly 26,000 people and three of them – ChristianaCare, Nemours Children’s Health and Saint Francis – have already issued vaccinate-or-terminate policies well before the Biden administration policy was set to go into effect. ChristianaCare lost 150 staff members due to the policy via terminations or resignations, after offering religious and select medical exemptions.

As it stands, most of the hospital systems in central and southern Delaware have been leery about mandating the vaccine, as Beebe’s Tam said two months ago he would not issue “an ultimatum” until more federal information was available.

Days after Biden’s announcement, Beebe Healthcare officials announced it would require all its employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 24. A spokesperson from TidalHealth Nanticoke has yet to return requests for comment.

The three central and southern Delaware hospitals comprise about 8,200 employees, according to Delaware Business Times records.

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