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Southwest Pennsylvania hospitals will comply with vaccine mandate and avoid penalties

Isabelle Schmeler
90.5 WESA

A dozen chief medical officers from Southwest Pennsylvania health systems all say they will comply with a federal rule requiring employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4.

The group includes the area’s largest providers, UPMC and Allegheny Health Network, along with smaller medical systems such as the VA, Heritage Valley, Conemaugh, Butler, Excela and Penn Highlands Healthcare.

The medical officers say the federal vaccine mandate protects patients and staff. What they don’t mention is their organizations stand to lose money if they refuse. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may issue monetary penalties, deny payments, or even terminate facilities from the Medicare and Medicaid program.

Individual providers have been slow to issue mandates, partly out of fear that doing so will spur vaccine-hesitant employees to find work elsewhere. But this federal rule limits employment options for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers.

In addition to hospitals and clinics, other providers including nursing homes, home health agencies, hospice facilities, and in-patient psychiatric treatment centers must also comply.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.