Ballad Health executive shares concerns as vaccine mandate for large employers draws closer to enforcement

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- President Biden’s mandate that orders employers with 100 or more workers to require the vaccine or conduct weekly testing has moved closer to enforcement, and Ballad Health says it’s not ready.

“Now, we’re right at 63% of our team members have taken the vaccine. We’re still not ready to have a vaccine or testing mandate,” said Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton. “We really cannot afford to lose team members out of the system due to a vaccine mandate.”

He says he’s worried about the mandate’s possible effect on staffing, especially when it comes to the more than 350 contracted nurses Ballad has hired from outside the system.

“Labor nurses can go work anywhere else across the country today. So, if we put in a vaccine mandate and they don’t want to comply with that, they can go work at a lot of other places and they will still continue to be paid at a higher rate,” he said. “It can have a great impact on us if we lose just a very few team members.”

Deaton says he’s also concerned about what a vaccine mandate could do to their funding.

“We are waiting to see how the Biden administration’s proposal rolls out in the coming weeks,” he said. “If [The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] or Medicare decides that mandatory vaccination is tied with reimbursement or how you’re paid for medicare, then, we will have to look closely at that because that’s a large amount of where we receive our funds to support the system.”

Tuesday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration finalized the initial draft for President Biden’s emergency order and sent it to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. The agency has 90 days.

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