CarolinaEast pauses vaccine mandate for healthcare employees

New Bern

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – There were two options for most health care systems across the country with President Joe Biden’s healthcare vaccine mandate: require the vaccine and lose employees or don’t require the vaccine and lose federal funding for certain patients.

“When we see a patient that is Medicare and Medicaid, we bill CMS and that’s who pays us through the federal government,” said CarolinaEast Vice President of Human Resources, Lesley Hunter.

However, a federal judge halted the mandates as they decide whether the COVID-19 shot requirement is constitutional.

“When the pause was announced nationwide from a federal level, we determined that was the best decision for our organization as well,” Hunter said.

If the mandate were in place, more than 90-percent of CarolinaEast employees would be in compliance, but losing any employee right now is a concern.

“We do know that some employees are not going to take the vaccine or prefer not to take the vaccine, so we did anticipate losing some employees over that,” Hunter said. “But 93 percent of our employees have either had a first dose or a medical or religious exemption. So that number was going to be small, but losing any staff is something we did not want to happen.”

Before the mandate, CarolinaEast was already seeing some staffing shortages but is hoping this pause will help keep staff around.

“We have a lot of vacant positions and it’s not just in nursing, we have shortages across the board whether it’s support positions or other clinical positions,” Hunter said. “We hope that those staff members who are still considering whether they want to receive the vaccine or not will have a little more time to think about that.”

CarolinaEast nurse Yvette Bowen said she’s seeing some of the effects from the possible mandate.

“I know a lot of my co-workers have left because of the mandate, but I felt good about the vaccination,” Bowen said. “I love what I do and COVID wasn’t going to shoo me away from that.”

For the time being, even the unvaccinated healthcare workers will stay employed.

“From a federal standpoint we are going to watch and see,” Hunter added about the timeline for a possible mandate. “At this point, I’m not sure when or if we’ll make a different decision.”

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