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Great Plains Health navigates CMS regulations on COVID-19 vaccine

Hospital news | Thursday, November 11, 2021

Contact: Mary Roberts

North Platte, Neb., November 11, 2021 – On Nov. 4, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a regulation that requires the COVID-19 vaccination of staff at health care facilities.

According to the CMS rule, facilities must establish a policy to ensure that staff have received the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 5, 2021. Staff must be fully vaccinated and receive their second dose of a two-dose vaccine by Jan. 4, 2022. These regulations apply to any institution that receives Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements.

Mel McNea, chief executive officer at Great Plains Health, has provided a signed affidavit testifying to the potential negative impacts to rural hospitals should this hard rule stand. This testimony will be included in a legal suit in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“GPHealth provides access to many medical resources that our community could not otherwise receive so close to home,” McNea says. “We are committed to providing the region with quality care and believe this regulation could affect our staffing numbers, our ability to accept and send transfers and ultimately the way we serve this community and the critical access hospitals in the region.”

“This is not about the vaccine and it is not about politics,” McNea says. “We believe in the vaccine and have seen firsthand how the vaccine has reduced hospitalizations and deaths. This is about being able to maintain a staffing level to be able to continue providing healthcare services to the region.”

GPHealth leadership is communicating with The Chief Medical Officer for the state of Nebraska as well as the Nebraska Hospital Association about the implications of this announcement. GPHealth is in the ongoing process of researching the implementation of these regulations and how certain medical and religious exemptions will be determined.

GPHealth values its employees and is offering information and resources to staff to help them make a thoughtful, well-researched decision on the vaccination.

“We respect our employees and their right to make decisions about their health. We know that the decision to get vaccinated is personal and requires research and consideration. We encourage employees to meet with their physicians and discuss the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not yet received it,” McNea says.

GPHealth is in the ongoing process of navigating this implementation of these regulations and will provide continued information and support to employees throughout the process.

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About Great Plains Health

Based in North Platte, Nebraska, Great Plains Health is a fully accredited, 116-bed acute-care regional medical center serving western and central Nebraska, northern Kansas and southern South Dakota. With 90 physicians representing nearly 30 medical specialties, the Great Plains Health system offers advanced health care, including heart and vascular, cancer, and orthopedic surgery services. Great Plains Health is a Level III trauma center, and all of its emergency department physicians are residency-trained and board-certified in emergency medicine. The system employs approximately 1,093 employees and serves a geographic area spanning approximately 16,000 square miles.

The hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission and is home to an American College of Surgeons-accredited cancer center and Level II bariatric surgery program. For more information, visit gphealth.org.