Ambulance Board Ponders Mandate
By MARK EVANS
Kendall Shrum does not believe the recent United States Supreme Court ruling that health care workers must get vaccinated for COVID-19 applies to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel, such as First Responders.
The executive director of the Ste. Genevieve County Ambulance District updated ambulance board members on the situation during their regular monthly meeting last Thursday.
“It looks like, from everything I’ve been told through American Ambulance Association, Missouri Ambulance Association, the state legislators that I’ve talked to about it, that EMS workers are not listed in the Healthcare Provider Act,” Shrum said.
However, he is not banking on that remaining true.
“It was probably an oversight,” he said, noting that firefighters are not included, either. “It could change tomorrow.”
Shrum fears ambulance districts will eventually find themselves in the position of having to demand employees be fully vaccinated.
“I think we’re looking at a mandate eventually,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
The biggest issue may come down to districts only being able to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement if they follow whatever mandates come down the pike.
If so, the district will have no feasible option but to comply.
“If it comes down to the point where they mandate it, I hate to say it, but the district is going to have to mandate it to stay afloat,” Shrum said. “There’s no way we could lose our Medicaid, Medicare funding. You’re looking at probably 75 to 80 percent of our patient revenue.”
In the meantime, he, along with the various organizations impacted, are holding their collective breath and watching for any changes.
“Everybody’s got their finger to the pulse and are trying to figure out what’s going on with it,” Shrum said.
Some religious and medical exemptions should be in place, should the EMS personnel be included in the mandate.
“We’ll cross that bridge and figure out what exemptions are available to people,” Vice Chair Don Kuehn said.
RETENTION PLAN IS DISCUSSED
Implementing an employee retention plan and the possible use of COVID-19 relief funds for that program were also discussed.
The topic had been brought up at the December 2021 meeting.
“With us losing one-third of our staff last year in a single calendar year, and with the increased workload with the COVID, with the short staff that we’ve got, it’s getting harder and harder to find employees,” Shrum said. “There was discussion of doing some type of retention program or hazard pay program or something like that.”