In the aftermath of a federal court ruling this week blocking the Biden administration’s mandate that health care workers get the COVID-19 vaccine, one local hospital is dropping its requirement that employees receive the jab.
Lexington Medical Center has decided to pause its requirement that its employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus, citing a federal court decision in Louisiana Tuesday that blocks the federal government from enforcing the requirement.
“Since a U.S. District judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) mandate that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, Lexington Medical Center is pausing its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees,” the hospital said in a statement. “We will wait for the case to make its way through the courts to determine next steps.”
However, the hospital reiterated that it “believes the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and the best tool available to prevent the spread of the virus, protect families and keep our community moving forward,” according to communications director Allison Sanford.
Louisiana U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty issued the injunction in a case brought by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and 13 other states. Doughty said in his ruling that the mandate was an example of the executive branch usurping power that rightly belongs to Congress.
Gov. Henry McMaster had last month issued an order banning his Cabinet directors from enforcing the COVID-19 mandate, going as far to require state agencies to report to him should the federal government ask about the vaccination status of employees.
Doughty’s ruling only applies to the federal mandate. Private businesses and hospitals are still allowed to require their own employees be vaccinated.
Wilson added South Carolina to the federal lawsuit last month, arguing the mandate was coercive and violated the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states any power not granted to the federal government is reserved to the states or the people.
“The Federal Government seeks to bully the sovereign State of South Carolina into submission with the promise of federal funds,” Wilson said in a statement at the time.
The attorney general’s wife, Jennifer Wilson, is the public relations manager at Lexington Medical Center.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administered the mandate, said in response to the lawsuit that it was necessary for frontline workers to both protect themselves from the virus and to prevent them from unwittingly spreading the disease to those seeking care.
“Unvaccinated staff pose both a direct and indirect threat to the very patients that they serve,” the group said in a statement.
Press reports also indicate that Prisma Health, another major health provider in the Midlands, has also suspended its vaccination program, though last month it said it would keep its vaccine requirement in place after a judge ruled against Biden’s large employer vaccination mandate.
Greenville TV station WYFF posted a statement from Prisma Health’s Upstate office that it would also suspend its vaccination program in response to the ruling. Columbia’s WLTX reported a similar statement from the local Prisma Health hospital group.
The State has not received a direct response from Prisma Health about its vaccination program.
The Medical University of South Carolina — which, in June, bought Providence Hospital in Columbia and other Midlands health care facilities — required as part of its hospital policy that its employees get vaccinated by June 30 or face being fired.
Five staff members at the Charleston-based health system were fired.