Schmidt challenging nursing home vaccine mandate

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Republican Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Wednesday filed a third lawsuit challenging Biden administration vaccine mandates, this time for health care facilities that participate in Medicaid and Medicare programs.

Schmidt joined with nine other states, including Missouri, to file a lawsuit in federal court in St. Louis seeking to stop the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from imposing a vaccine mandate on facilities such as nursing homes and rural health clinics.

“Kansas healthcare facilities and their employees are already facing hardships due to the stresses of the pandemic and the current labor shortage,” Schmidt said in a statement.

“Placing this additional mandate on healthcare facilities and employees will exacerbate this problem and will likely lead some facilities – particularly those in underserved, rural areas – to close due to an inability to hire sufficient staff,” he said.

The lawsuit notes that Missouri is experiencing a health care worker shortage, with a recent study by the Missouri State Board of Nursing and the University of Missouri showing that 97 of Missouri’s 114 counties have a nursing shortage.

As of January 2021, Missouri had a staff nurse vacancy of 12% with 4,894 vacant staff
nurse positions.

Additionally, staff nurse turnover is the highest it has been in 20 years at 18.1% with the combined turnover rate among all health care professions at 21.5%.

The lawsuit also points to Nebraska where the latest data from 2018 indicated that there were more than 4,300 job openings for registered nurses.

The lawsuit cites state data showing that nine assisted living facilities and 20 nursing homes in rural Nebraska have closed since 2019.

“The case illustrates why the police power over compulsory vaccination has always been the province of – and still properly belongs to – the states,” the attorneys general wrote in their petition.

“Vaccination requirements are matters that depend on local factors and conditions. Whatever might make sense in New York City, St. Louis or Omaha could be decidedly counterproductive and harmful in rural communities…

“Federalism allows states to tailor such matters in the best interests of their communities. The heavy hand of CMS’s nationwide mandate does not.”

Margaret Farley, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said the lawsuit would only serve to undermine for protections for nursing home residents.

Farley said nursing homes have been “ground zero” for the outbreak and spread of COVID-19.

“Now is not the time to be foolhardy and let down our guard by weakening the most effective protection that has been proven to keep nursing home residents safe,” Farley said in a statement.

“When combined with other infection control protocols, vaccines not only protect residents, their family members, and visitors, but also protect staff within those homes who live and interact with the community outside the facility.”

Schmidt has already filed two legal challenges against separate vaccine mandates.

Schmidt signed onto separate lawsuits asking judges to declare illegal two different federal vaccine mandates, one for federal contractors and the other for private employers with 100 or more employees.