Valley Journal
Valley Journal

This Week’s e-Edition

Current Events

Latest Headlines

What's New?

Send us your news items.

NOTE: All submissions are subject to our Submission Guidelines.

Announcement Forms

Use these forms to send us announcements.

Birth Announcement

Medical centers work to vaccinate employees by March 15 deadline

Hey savvy news reader! Thanks for choosing local. You are now reading
1 of 3 free articles.

Subscribe now to stay in the know!

Already a subscriber? Login now

LAKE COUNTY — Two local medical centers, St. Luke Community Healthcare in Ronan and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson, are renewing efforts to get staff and contractors fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by March 15, the date set by a federal vaccine mandate recently upheld by the Supreme Court.  

The rule, authorized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), stipulates that all unvaccinated healthcare workers at facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs need to have their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Feb. 14 and be fully vaccinated by March 15 (boosters are not required). Medical and religious exemptions are available but must meet strict guidelines.

The CMS edict runs counter to House Bill 702 signed into law last spring by Gov. Greg Gianforte that makes it illegal for employers or businesses, including healthcare institutions, to require proof of vaccine in Montana. The mandate has been wending its way through the courts since last fall, and eventually received a green light Jan. 13 from the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected a similar mandate for large businesses. 

According to St. Luke Community Healthcare CEO Steve Todd, the facility must comply in order to receive future Medicare and Medicaid payments, which amount to around $42 million annually. “It’s a big, big number,” he said in a previous interview. “We just can’t afford to ignore that one.”

In a recent interview, he estimated that 95% of the staff has had a least the first shot. “We have to work with approximately 20 staff members at this time – most of whom are filling in – where we either don’t know their vaccination status or they do not have an approved exemption,” he said.

A spokesperson for Providence said both St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson and St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula “are making great progress” toward meeting the federal mandate, and both facilities “are diligently working to get all of our caregivers in compliance with the mandatory, federal CMS vaccine rule.” 

Devin Huntley, COO at Providence St. Joseph, said in a previous interview that Medicare and Medicaid account for approximately 70% of the medical center’s revenues. “I can tell you there aren’t many – if any – hospitals that could keep their doors open for long without Medicare/Medicaid payments coming into the institution,” said Huntley. “In fact, I can’t think of any business that could lose up to 70% of its revenue and maintain operations for long.”  


Sponsored by: