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CLEVELAND (WJW) – The Supreme Court has had the final word, upholding a federal vaccine mandate that would impact more than an estimated 10.3 million eligible healthcare workers in the U.S.

“It definitely is a pretty profound policy. I mean, it’s going to require complete compliance from all of our member hospitals,” said John Palmer, Director of Public Affairs for the Ohio Hospital Association.

The mandate was introduced in November for facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs and had been stalled due to litigation. 

“Medicare and Medicaid services are a big portion of our patients that come into our facilities,” said Palmer.

The Ohio Hospital Association represents 250 hospitals and 15 health systems in the state and will be supporting them through the process. 

“We have deadlines on the horizon, and working with hospitals, they’re going to be working in good faith to meet those deadlines and to get employees vaccinated,” said Palmer.

A Cleveland Clinic spokesperson said more than 85% of their caregivers are vaccinated. They released the following statement:

On Jan. 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate issued by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) is allowed to move forward for healthcare workers in the U.S. 

Therefore, in accordance with this federal mandate, we are requiring all of our employees and those who provide services with our facilities in those states to receive their first dose of an mRNA vaccine or their one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by January 27, 2022 and the second vaccine by February 28, 2022. Those who do not receive their vaccinations and who do not have an approved exemption will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence.   

We are proud that the majority of our caregivers are already vaccinated, and we are encouraging those who are not yet vaccinated to receive their vaccine as quickly as possible.”  

A representative with University Hospitals also released a statement, saying: 

“We believe, consistent with the scientific consensus, that COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are the most effective way to protect our caregivers, patients and community from severe illness resulting in hospitalization and death. Since the vaccine became available in late 2020, University Hospitals has encouraged our caregivers to get vaccinated, educated them on the benefits of vaccination and made vaccines readily available to them. The overwhelming majority of our caregivers are vaccinated and we are grateful to them all for their service during this challenging time. We are reviewing the most recent ruling to ensure compliance with federal requirements.”

The mandate applies to more than just hospitals. 

“Most of our members are under it, the ones that are home health agencies, hospices, ICFs and skilled-nursing are all under it,” said Pete Van Runkle, Executive Director of the Ohio Health Care Association. 

They represent more than 1,000 long-term care providers who are worried about losing staff. 

“Completely scared, freaked out, upset, just not knowing where they’re going to end up,” Van Runkle said.

They are supporting their members by making sure they understand the requirements and are hoping there will be accommodations for good-faith effort. 

“It’s not for lack of trying, and to think that they could be penalized for basically not firing people that are needed to take care of the people that they are basically sworn to serve, it’s a tough spot,” Van Runkle said.