TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state of Florida has been dealt an initial blow in its battle to block a federal rule requiring health care workers to get vaccinated.
The federal policy conflicts with the state law banning vaccine mandates and could result in facilities facing stiff fines, but health care groups are most concerned about how the mandate will affect staffing levels.
Health care workers will have to be vaccinated by Dec. 6 or billions of Medicaid dollars could be withheld from facilities.
Kristen Knapp, with the Florida Health Care Association, said nursing homes have no choice but to comply.
“That Dec. 6 deadline is fast approaching, and we’re all working really hard to make sure that we’re in compliance,” said Knapp.
And with only about six of 10 nursing home staff vaccinated to date, Knapp worries how staffing could be affected.
“There’s a possibility if we have limited staffing that we have to shut down wings, limit admissions,” said Knapp.
Compliance with the federal rule would also mean facilities could face ten to $50,000 fines from the state for every employee fired.
Mary Mayhew, with the Florida Hospital Association, said health care facilities are in desperate need of resolution.
“Where there is confusion, there’s a lack of clarity, and that’s where we are right now between the state law that has recently been passed and the federal rule,” said Mayhew.
So far, the state’s efforts to block the federal vaccine mandate for health care workers in the courts has been unsuccessful.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed to continue fighting the rule, despite a U.S. district judge refusing to block it in an initial ruling.
“I don’t want to see anyone get thrown out of a job based on getting a shot or not getting a shot,” said DeSantis.
The governor said he plans to take the state’s lawsuit against the rule to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but there’s no guarantee a ruling will come before the Dec. 6 deadline.
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office issued a statement about the loss in the lower court.
“Attorney General Moody will continue to fight back on President (Joe) Biden’s unlawful vaccine mandates. We strongly disagree with this order and will pursue further action in court to protect the livelihoods and rights of all Floridians,” said Moody’s Director of Public Affairs Lauren Schenone Cassedy.