Letter to the Editor: To the Employees of Prowers Medical Center and the Citizens of Prowers County:

 

 

9/30/2021

As you are aware, the State of Colorado Board of Health issued a statewide mandate requiring the vaccination of all hospital employees. The Board of Directors of Prowers Medical Center never issued such a mandate and had no plans of ever doing so.

Last night, a board meeting was held to discuss the COVID-19 state mandate that has been issued.  Many community members joined this public meeting both in person and via telephone. Individuals that wanted to speak, either in person, or via conference call, during the public comments section of the meeting were given 3 minutes to make their comment. We didn’t end the meeting until every single person had their turn to speak that wanted to do so. This was an emotionally charged meeting and the board heard and whole heartedly listened to every single comment. This was not a public forum, but rather a public meeting. Public meetings have a specific time slot where community members are
allowed to speak for a certain time, in this case, 3 minutes. This was never intended to be a question-and-answer session, but our board was very accommodative and answered what questions we could and will do our best to answer all the questions that we couldn’t answer on the spot. We appreciate all the comments made. After the open session, our board went into executive session and below is our final stance on the subject matter.

First and foremost, the PMC Board of Directors fully supports and stands behind our administrative team starting with Karen Bryant-CEO, Steve Gilgen-CFO, Tina Sandoval-CCO and Karl Nieschburg-Compliance Officer. They were tasked by the board to create the policy and procedures that would keep our hospital in compliance with the state issued mandate. This mandate requires all employees to have their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by September 30, 2021 and to be fully vaccinated by October 31, 2021. The state issued mandate comes with a backdrop of losing our hospital license and potential monetary fines if we do not comply. The board does not take this lightly as without a license, we don’t have a hospital for our community. This administrative team executed our instructions to a T. They put many hours and extensive thought into creating these policies and procedures which followed the rules of the mandate. Part of this process allows credible medical and religious waiver exemption requests to be made by the employees who are not willing to take the vaccine. The administrative team consulted with many other hospitals, large and small, as well as our attorney and many other professionals in the medical field to find out what other hospitals were doing. This helped create our policy and procedures,
which included hiring an external panel of board certified Medical Doctors. This panel reviewed every single request. This process was in line with many other hospitals throughout the state. Neither our administrative team, nor the board of directors had any part in the decision-making process of these exemption requests. It is true that the majority of these requests were declined by the panel, and when those decisions were made, the rejection letters cited the science-based evidence and the medical professional associations that negated the claims made by the employees. Due to these denials, and in compliance with the mandate, these employees will not be able to continue their employment with Prowers Medical Center.

Unvaccinated employees whose exemption requests were denied, were scheduled by our policy to terminate employment on 09/30/2021. This Board, after hearing comments from our community and with much thought, and input from our legal counsel, has decided to extend these individuals
employment until 10/31/2021, if and only if they agree to COVID testing twice per week and remaining masked at the workplace. We made this decision based on the legal interpretation that the mandate requires 100% of employees be fully vaccinated by 10/31/2021, which could include one shot of the J&J vaccine by that deadline. To be clear, the exemption requests that were denied are not changing, and if those employees are still not vaccinated by 10/31/2021, and/or, if the rules of the state mandate do not change by this date, their employment will terminate on 10/31/2021.

Additionally, we have enacted an accommodation for the pregnant female employees which our administrative team already had in the works prior to last night’s meeting.  Again, none of these policies were ever part of any action this board would take, without the state mandate that has been put in place. We cannot and will not jeopardize our license as without that, we have no hospital. Letting go of employees is not easy, and will no doubt, have negative impacts on our hospital such as employee shortages, possible department shutdowns, low employee morale, reduced revenues and many other negative impacts. Unfortunately, the world we operate in has become mandate driven at a time when we should be united.  The decision to extend the September 30, 2021 date to October 31, 2021 was not made lightly. The board realizes that the hospital is more exposed to state review and penalties, if the state should choose to enforce their interpretation of the mandate.

This is a live document and may have to change at a moment’s notice. PMC will do its utmost best to keep everyone in the loop about possible changes and what direction the state is headed. We do not know how this will end. Working together to keep an open mind with open communications will help all of us make it through to come out stronger at the end.  The board asks that if the community wants to have a say in future changes, please contact your State elected officials including but not limited to Governor Polis, and all other elected state level officials who can actually make an impact on this matter. The website with the contact info for your state legislators is https://leg.colorado.gov/legislators. The voices of many will be heard loud and clear but you have to act now, not later.

We want to thank all of you who support PMC and its employees. What they are going through now and have been through the past 18 plus months should not have happened. It did happen, so all of us have to deal with this as a team working together to make the health care community that much stronger.

Regards,
PMC Board of Directors

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