PMC Board Hosts Special Meeting on Vaccine Mandates



The Prowers Medical Center Board of Directors heard from over 100 callers and in-person attendees during a special meeting September 29th, held to receive comments and questions from the audience regarding vaccine and health guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado Department of Health.

The majority of residents, crowding the hospital hallway outside the meeting room, were there to voice their opinions on the national mandate requiring hospital employees to be masked as of September 30th or not be allowed to work.  Of the 23 PMC employees who requested an exemption from the mandates by way of medical situations or religious beliefs, one received the exemption, requiring the balance to abide to by the mandates.

Julie Branes, PMC board chairperson, gave an opening statement following the board’s earlier executive meeting, which summarized the hospital’s position on the federal mandates, given that as Prowers Medical Center is a Medicaid and Medicare facility, they would not put the hospital license at risk and are obligated to follow those directives. Branes said, “We do not have a crystal ball to read the future, but this situation is fluid and we recognize this.”

Several board members gave their views on the matter:  Jake Chamberlain said the top priority is to have the hospital remain licensed to serve the health needs of the community.  Ron Farmer added that it’s not the board that is mandating vaccines and all concerned are working under difficult guidelines, “We’re trying to get the best options to benefit everyone, what will have the least impact on most people,” but he realized that some employees may feel slighted or are being treated unfairly, but the board can’t change this.  Connie Brase acknowledged that this is not an easy situation for anyone right now, but asked if Prowers Medical Center has no license, where will patients have to travel for their medical care.

The majority of concerns during the allotted three minutes for comment per person, focused on the legality of the mandate with most suggestions on the exemptions recommending the board delay action until specific rulings have been issued from the State Health Department and CDPHE, occurring on October 21st of this year.

Several speakers, including District 64 State Representative, Richard Holtorf, warned the board they could be held liable in civil litigation for denying the hospital employees their ability to work and suggesting that the board is violating their constitutional rights.  “Which side of the litigation will you be on in the future, you need to consider your liability as this can go before the state supreme court.  He also suggested the board send a letter of protest to the CDPHE as they are being forced to pre-decide on people’s employment before the October 21st ruling.  Without specifying what he intended to do, Holtorf warned, “I’ve got background on some of you (board) members!”

Quite a few speakers praised the past efforts of local and national health care providers over the past 18 or more months of the pandemic, acknowledging that they have been stressed to the breaking point.  Deb Pelly, Director of Lamar Hospice, highlighted the efforts and dedication of her staff, who would assist those in need, in light of the patient’s COVID-19 status, using homemade personal prevention equipment, in the absence of supplies.  She added that she would accept every request for an exemption from her staff.  “The mandate of a vaccine is not a condition of employment for my hospice staff,” she said, adding, “I’m not anti-vax, but I am anti-mandate.”

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: CountyCOVID-19EmploymentFeaturedHealth


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