Michigan Medicine must now vaccinate all of its employees to comply with a September mandate by the Biden-Harris Administration.
The mandate requires hospitals and other medical facilities participating in Medicare or Medicaid programs to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees.
Michigan Medicine receives 37.7% of its net revenue from Medicare and Medicaid, according to Mary Masson, the public relations director for Michigan Medicine. As a result, Michigan Medicine facilities must adhere to this mandate and require all of its employees to get vaccinated.
Some employees of Michigan Medicine, such as nurses, have previously been exempt from the University’s vaccine mandate due to conditions in their collective bargaining contracts.
Masson told The Michigan Daily in an email that Michigan Medicine has yet to determine if employees exempt from the University’s vaccine mandate will also be exempt from the Biden-Harris Administration’s vaccine mandate.
“We are waiting for guidance (from the federal government),” Masson wrote. “We already have worked with some unions to negotiate the vaccine mandate and expect to begin negotiations with our nurses’ union in the next few weeks.”
Masson added that data on the number of nurses who have not reported their vaccine status, or who have reported they are unvaccinated, are still being collected.The deadline to get all previously exempt employees vaccinated has not yet been set.
Dr. Michael Rubyan, University of Michigan Public Health professor and expert in health management and policy, said that, although unprecedented, the federal government does have the capability to enforce mandates like this one.
“The federal government is enforcing the mandate through its power to withdraw federal funds,” Rubyan said. “This is rarely undertaken as a policy, but it is designed to provide health care facilities with justification for creating an employee mandate.”
Though this mandate could be challenged in court, Rubyan said it is “defensible through principles of worker safety and of protections of the public’s health.”
LSA junior Andrew Rickenburg is on the pre-med academic track and works at a pharmacology research lab affiliated with Michigan Medicine, meaning he is mandated to get the vaccine by both the University and Michigan Medicine. Rickenburg said he believes it is in the interest of public health to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for medical workers.
“By getting vaccinated, you’re not just protecting yourself, but you’re protecting the patients and people that you’re interacting with on a daily basis,” Rickenburg said. “So in terms of that, I think that the mandate is necessary.”
In the wake of nursing shortages, Rickenburg also said he thinks potential mandate backlash may be experienced both in Michigan Medicine and in other healthcare facilities. Mandating vaccines for healthcare workers has been shown to lead to worker shortages in hospitals, specifically in rural areas.
Rickenburg also works at a hospital in Traverse City, Mich., and said he was concerned about nurse retention in the hospital and other healthcare facilities.
“Nurse turnover is a big issue, regardless of how nurses view the vaccine mandate, and you can’t run a hospital and provide quality care to your patients if you don’t have enough staff,” Rickenburg said. “And I think that that’s a big problem that a lot of areas, maybe not necessarily at Ann Arbor, but I know a lot of areas are going to run into if they do mandate a vaccine.”
Daily News Editor Hannah Mackay contributed to reporting.
Daily News Contributor Kylie Claxton can be reached at [email protected]