Hundreds of Ballad Health employees face Friday vaccine mandate

Published 6:28 pm Thursday, February 10, 2022

BY NIC MILLER
STAR STAFF
nic.miller@elizabethton.com

On Friday, hundreds of current Ballad Health employees will face losing their job as a federally stated mask mandate that affects the medical group will go into effect.

The mandate was approved at the Supreme Court level and allowed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to enforce its interim final rule requiring many Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers to vaccinate their staff for COVID-19.

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The mandate is set to go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. Employees must receive their first dose of the vaccine or seek an exemption to retain their jobs.

Ballad Health has around 300 employees at the moment who have not taken either of those steps and risk losing their job over the weekend.

Eric Deaton, Ballad’s Chief Operating Officer, said that around 550 employees have not yet been vaccinated or received a medical or religious exemption, but noted that about 250 of those employees will have a delayed deadline due to a recent COVID-19 infection.

However, while this number of potentially lost employees is not ideal, “the number of people who haven’t been vaccinated or gotten an exemption is looking much better than it has in recent weeks,” he said.

For reference, the number of Ballad employees who had not received the vaccine was at around 2,000 in early January, and sat at right around 1,000 employees only two weeks ago.

“Losing one nurse, one licensed nurse practitioner, one certified nursing assistant, one clinical support person is one too many,” said Deaton. “We need every person here, and so we’re working every day with the people who have not provided the information or vaccine to encourage them to get the vaccine or to help them work through getting the paperwork that they need to.”

However, Deaton said that he was hopeful the number of potential losses will decline, and that he has heard from team leaders that people are still planning to get vaccinated this week.

Deaton said that on Monday, Ballad’s leadership team will convene to determine the exact number of employees out of compliance, and Ballad’s governing board will then be tasked with taking final action.

Those health care facilities that are not in compliance with the mandate by the deadline could face fines or be barred from participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs.