KGVO has learned that Community Medical Center is now requiring all employees and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID 19.

In the recently passed HB 702, there is a subsection that applies to healthcare facilities:

'(3) (a) A person, governmental entity, or an employer does not unlawfully discriminate under this section if they recommend that an employee receive a vaccine. (b) A health care facility, as defined in 50-5-101, does not unlawfully discriminate under this section if it complies with both of the following:

(i) asks an employee to volunteer the employee’s vaccination or immunization status for the purpose of determining whether the health care facility should implement reasonable accommodation measures to protect the safety and health of employees, patients, visitors, and other persons from communicable diseases. A health care facility may consider an employee to be nonvaccinated or nonimmune if the employee declines to provide the employee’s vaccination or immunization status to the health care facility for purposes of determining whether reasonable accommodation measures should be implemented.

(ii) implements reasonable accommodation measures for employees, patients, visitors, and other persons who are not vaccinated or not immune to protect the safety and health of employees, patients, visitors, and other persons from communicable diseases.

KGVO received this reply from Community Medical Center CEO Bob Gomes:

Community Medical Center plans to fully comply with the federal vaccine requirement, as we know that the COVID-19 vaccine is our best defense against this virus and getting vaccinated supports our mission of Making Communities Healthier. We are committed to fulfilling all of our regulatory and compliance obligations, and are working diligently with our staff members to ensure they either receive the COVID-19 vaccine or submit an exemption by the January 4, 2022 deadline.

In addition, Billings Clinic recently sent out a letter explaining why their healthcare facilities are mandating the COVID vaccinations.

‘New CMS Rule Requires Vaccination for Healthcare Workers in Montana

RiverStone Health, St. Vincent Healthcare and Billings Clinic are committed to caring for our patients and community, and we will always seek to deliver that care in the safest way possible. We also remain committed to complying with all requirements and regulations surrounding the safe and high-quality delivery of healthcare in the communities we serve.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final interim rule that requires most Medicare and Medicaid certified providers to ensure that their staff is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Failure to comply with the CMS COVID-19 Health Care Staff vaccination rule could result in monetary penalties, denial of payment or termination from Medicare and Medicaid programs for our three (3) programs. Bottom line, to ensure that we can continue caring for tens of thousands of patients covered by Medicare/Medicaid, we are requiring our healthcare workers to become vaccinated against COVID19 as outlined by the final interim rule.

The interim final rule allows for exemption from the vaccination requirements and each of our organizations are in the process of planning for the collection and evaluation of those requests. It’s important to note that the CMS interim final rule is different from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard, which was also issued on Friday, November 5. The CMS final interim rule specifically preempts the applicability of any state or local law to the contrary and therefore this rule supersedes Montana House Bill 702. We recognize that several states have challenged the CMS rule but that because the first compliance deadline is three weeks away, our organizations are proceeding with plans and processes to comply with the CMS rule. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and they reduce hospitalizations and death. As healthcare providers, it is our duty and obligation to care for and protect individual patients, including the most vulnerable among us, as well as ensure the health and well-being of our community. Therefore, we are complying with the requirements as outlined in the CMS interim final rule.'

KGVO is awaiting word from Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula as to whether they plan to comply with the CMS interim final rule and require all their over 1,400 employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID 19.

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