Federal courts have blocked Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates for health care workers in orders entered this week, at least temporarily. The stakes in the cases are incredibly high for rural Americans, where providers have been at risk of losing desperately needed workers simply because of their vaccination status.
In support of one of the restraining orders entered this week, U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp wrote that the balancing of interests “falls clearly in favor of healthcare facilities operating” with unvaccinated staff available as opposed to forcing them to either provide substandard care or close down entirely.
Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals President John Henderson said that the mandate could make it impossible for rural facilities to deliver babies or operate emergency rooms to care for trauma patients.
Without the additional problems presented by a vaccine mandate, rural hospitals already face significant challenges in providing care. They already have limited access to specialists and involve long commutes for all professional staff. Requiring mandated vaccines for medical professionals who gave so much during the most trying days of the pandemic presents a real and immediate threat to already underserved communities.
Rural medical facilities also risk losing critical federal funding due to the Biden mandate. They also might have conflicting regulations in some states that restrict mandates, leading to operational and difficulty of the financing. Even maintaining supplies of critical medical supplies and equipment might be threatened.
The Lewis County Health System in New York was forced to suspend operations in September for its maternity ward after more than a dozen staff members were displaced because of not being vaccinated and resigning. The system CEO said that he was left with no other choice when replacing lost staff was impossible in the short run.
The Biden administration looked past the immediate staffing threats of the mandate last week in announcing plans to invest $1.5 billion in rural hospitals. As usually seems the case, the federal government acts as if the solution to every human problem is printing money and sending it out to bureaucrats. More dollars going to administrators will never conjure up qualified professional medical workers out of thin air.