Gillette hospital sends mandate protest to Biden

GILLETTE — In addition to airing out the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming federal vaccine mandates expected to affect Campbell County Health employees next month, hospital trustees decided to send a formal response to the man in charge himself.

On Thursday, they voted to approve a letter written by trustee Alan Stuber, with the support of the board and legal counsel, addressed to President Joe Biden.

The board approved sending the letter to Biden, as well as Gov. Mark Gordon, U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

The letter states that the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate is a “gross federal overreach” and not suitable for Campbell County, where the hospital board believes the mandate could worsen the health care system’s staffing crisis and affect patient care.

“The board of trustees for Campbell County Health feel such policies do not fit our organization’s core values,” Stuber read. “What other organizations are implementing may be appropriate for them and their communities they serve, it is not appropriate for us, our staff and our community. Those health care systems are in a different environment and in different markets.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services has not given the official guidelines for the federal vaccine mandates that Biden announced earlier this month. However, it has been made clear that implementing the mandates will be tied to federal licensing for facilities.

“Biden’s directive to require employees be vaccinated as a condition of participating in Medicare and Medicaid is a gross federal overreach,” Stuber read. “Implementing such mandates in our community could leave us without enough health care workers to care for our elderly and our sick, including those with COVID-19. This will not only deflate our already declining workforce, but leave our organization in a critical staffing predicament that we have never dealt with in the past.”

CCH has walked the line of supporting the COVID-19 vaccine itself, but opposing the mandates requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

“While we may have to comply with these federal vaccine mandates as they are implemented, to keep our state licensing and keep our doors open, we support the efforts of our governor, federal representatives and our state legislature to fight back against this policy,” he continued. “It simply does not align with our community values.

“Campbell County is proudly conservative and we do not like the federal government telling us what to do. We will continue to push forward and the fears and concerns of our employees and community will not be disregarded by the board of trustees.”

Although the board does not necessarily expect the letter to change Biden’s mind, they discussed broader plans to work with local and state legislators to see what could be done about the mandate from a state level.

“Will this actually get anywhere? Probably not,” Gerrits said at last week’s meeting. “But it’s the best we can do right now.”

Gerrits said he spoke with Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, who thought CCH was implementing the federal mandate on its own. Sen. Troy McKeown, R-Gillette, spoke at last week’s meeting and was asked by Stuber to help the hospital board challenge the mandates.

“We’re in this to work with our local legislators and our governor and whoever else we can work with,” Gerrits said.