DuBois, PA – Healthcare workers will have to prove that they are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022, if they want to remain employed.

Officials at Penn Highlands Healthcare say that, although they do encourage everyone to get vaccinated, the decision is not entirely in their control. If they were not to comply with the CMS federal mandate, they would lose their reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, which many patients use.

They also make it clear that although the OSHA mandate for businesses of 100 employees or more is not being enforced, this healthcare vaccine mandate is separate and has not been lifted.

Employees who are not yet fully vaccinated by Jan. 3, 2022, will be placed on non-paid administrative leave for 45 days in hopes that they will choose to be vaccinated. If they do not receive their vaccine within that time, the hospital will terminate their employment or contract.

There has been a surge in cases of COVID-19 throughout Penn Highlands Healthcare.

At the time of the press conference, there were 109 patients with the primary diagnoses of COVID-19 across Penn Highlands Healthcare.

13 of those were on ventilators. Four covid patients had died just within the past day.

About a third to a half of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 were vaccinated, though they did not give details on how many of the patients of ventilators or those who had died were vaccinated or unvaccinated.

The hospital administration says they are aware of the protest that is planned or today in front of the hospital from 2 until 4 p.m.

Mark Norman, COO, says he understands the frustrations of about the mandate, but he reiterated that the mandate means that the hospital would not receive Medicare and Medicaid funding unless they comply and also that the hospital believes in the efficacy of the vaccine.

 

Audio from the Penn Highlands Healthcare press conference on Nov. 18, 2021, with Penn Highlands Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Mark Norman and PHH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Russell Cameron discussing the vaccine requirement and the surge in COVID-19 cases.