Wyoming Behavioral Institute Requiring Employees Be Fully Vaccinated By January 4
Amid President Biden's Federal vaccine mandates, as well as the recent announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services that all healthcare facilities that participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid must require their staff to be vaccinated,
This was the deadline given by CMS at it applies to more than 17 million employees at approximately 76,000 healthcare facilities, per information from The White House.
WBI released a prepared statement, that reads as follows:
At Wyoming Behavioral Institute, we have been proactively preparing for the federal vaccine mandates drafted by CMS. We will be in compliance with the new federal requirements.
Like all health care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid (as well as any other industry that employees 100 or more people) Wyoming Behavioral Institute, as well as UHS as a whole, do not play a role in the decision-making process. Still, many employees of WBI are none-too-thrilled with the fact that the choice is, seemingly, "get the vaccine or lose your job."
"I don't know any other way to explain it other than it being heartbreaking," said one employee who spoke with K2 Radio News under the condition of anonymity. "I'm extremely lucky to have the support of my family to help me out financially if I need it, however I have friends that the mandate is highly affecting. Some of them are in school and they finally got a schedule that is flexible for their classes. I have friends who are single parents, or starting a family, or already have a family and need that money and now have to decide if they go against what they believe in or try and find a job and get hired in the hypothetical two-and-a-half weeks it takes to find a new job."
This employee stated that they feel betrayed by "the system," after spending the last two years putting their lives on the line to make sure their patients were treated safely and effectively.
"For two years, we were called 'heroes," the employee said. "We were constantly under-staffed because of people being sick, family members being sick, and just because of the profession we are in. Multiple times I'd go home worried about how I could get injured because we were short-staffed, or I'd have a breakdown because I was so burnt out and couldn't handle the emotional strain the job took on me. Now, I'm forced to either go against my personal beliefs or get the vaccine to keep my job. Our freedom to do what is best for ourselves in gone."
The Biden Administration maintains that the vaccine mandates are what's best for the country, as well as the economy.
"The Administration is calling on all employers to ensure that as many of their workers are vaccinated as quickly as possible," the website for The White House stated. "As detailed in a recent White House report, vaccination requirements work and are good for the economy. Vaccination requirements have increased vaccination rates by more than 20 percentage points – to over 90 percent – across a wide range of businesses and organizations. According to Wall Street analysts, vaccination requirements could result in as many as 5 million American workers going back to work, and a survey of prominent, independent economists found unanimous agreement that vaccination requirements will 'promote a faster and stronger economic recovery.'"
While the vaccine mandate may result in many Americans going back to work, it could also result in many Americans losing their jobs.
"I believe in autonomy over your own healthcare choices," said another WBI employee. "Being someone who worked in healthcare through the entire pandemic, it's frustrating to have people trying to regulate my choices, especially ones who most likely were able to work from home. I personally chose to get vaccinated for a number of different reasons, but I still support individuals having the right to choose without fear of discrimination or losing their jobs."
WBI has given their employees paperwork packets that include as much information as they can offer, regarding the mandate. Included in the packet is an exemption request form. Those requests are due by November 28.
For those employees getting the Pfizer or Moderna shots, they need to receive their first dose by December 6. They will need to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022.
According to the White House, This mandate applies to employees regardless of whether their positions are clinical or non-clinical. It includes employees, students, trainees, and volunteers as well.
"Today’s action will help provide patients assurance about the vaccination status of those delivering care, create a level playing field across health care facilities, and help to address challenges facilities have faced with staff sickness and quarantines impacting delivery of care," The White House noted.
While the health and safety of patients is the biggest priority of most every healthcare facility, the health and safety of staff should also be a priority. Many of the employees of WBI believe this mandate is not taking into consideration the physical and mental health of their team.
"I'm not for or against the vaccine, but I am definitely all for people feeling comfortable with their life decisions," said one more WBI staff member. "Every day, we work with people who have seemingly no control over their life's outcome, whether that be due to trauma, stress, and/or addiction. By mandating this vaccine, they are taking away the employees right to comfortability, regardless of the hard work we have shown day in and day out throughout the pandemic. There are a lot of us that busted our butts for this company when the pandemic first started that have gone unnoticed. 30+ hours of overtime a week, countless of those hours working directly with COVID patients, and dealing with pure exhaustion while at work to make sure every floor is covered. WBI has the most amazing and dedicated employees and, at this point, we all just need to stick together and support each other. I love my job and will end up getting the vaccine just to keep something I love."
Those who get into healthcare oftentimes do so because of an inherent desire, a calling, to help others. This goes for staff who work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and behavioral health facilities. The staff of Wyoming Behavioral Center have followed every federal direction they were given and, in many ways, were innovators in how they continued to provide care to patients throughout the pandemic. This included requiring every employee to wear scrubs and facemasks, checking the temperatures of every person who walked through the doors, coordinating an entirely separate wing of the hospital for COVID-positive patients, and more. WBI has, in many ways, gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide the kind of quality care necessary when dealing with the mental health of its patients.
The decision to implement the federal vaccine mandate is out of their hands, but the employees of Wyoming Behavioral Institute are the ones who are dealing with the fallout.