Fate of a third of Lynn County Hospital District staff in question as federal vaccine requirement deadline approaches

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 5:11 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers is impacting South Plains rural hospitals along with Lubbock’s major systems. In order to obtain the federal funding from CMS, the Lynn County Healthcare System is complying with the requirement and has a third of its staff who have not said whether or not they’ll get vaccinated.

“This mandate essentially has the potential of being a deathblow to our infrastructure and the organization that we’ve worked hard to overcome, the turmoil of COVID,” CEO Dr. Melanie Richburg said. “It’s going to be difficult from a staffing perspective to be able to overcome. If we have another surge, are we going to have enough people still here to be able to take care of the sick people in our communities?”

Dr. Richburg said there are 158 employees in the Lynn County Healthcare System but 125 to 130 fall under the CMS requirement. She adds that 43 have not made any indication as to what they will do or have requested a medical or religious exemption.

“I have seven medical providers here that deliver care,” Richburg said. “I have one medical provider that is not going to file an accommodation, nor is this provider going to get the vaccination. That means, as of December 5th, one of the seven providers that I have, and her position is a full-time position, so I have the potential of losing a full time medical provider that not only covers my clinic, covers my inpatient department, as well as the emergency room. From a staffing perspective, not having a lot of people to start with, and then taking one key player out of the mix, it’s a game changer.”

CMS has set a deadline of December 6 for health care workers to have at least one dose of a vaccine and January 4 to be fully vaccinated.

Richburg told KCBD that more than half of her healthcare system relies on Medicare and Medicaid funding.

“I think the government is doing the best they can in a situation that none of us have, or in my lifetime, that we’ve ever faced,” Richburg said. “But, I wish that they would be able to think more about what it does to small systems like mine, when 10 people is an entire shift to run this organization.”

She said she’s vaccinated and has had a booster shot but encourages her employees to make a decision they feel is best for themselves. She believes whether or not her employees are vaccinated, they could continue to keep everyone safe.

“I think for us here at Lynn County, we’ve done an exceptional job creating an environment that is not only safe for the patient, but safe for the staff taking care of that patient,” Richburg said.

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