Protest

The “Fight the Mandate” protest will take place Saturday, Dec 4 along both sides of Dewar Drive near Commerce Bank of Wyoming in Rock Springs.

ROCK SPRINGS — Medical professionals at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County will gather in protest of the emergency regulation issued by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, Saturday, Dec. 4.

The Biden-Harris Administration is requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of staff at health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Employees need to be vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

The goal of the CMS is to protect those fighting COVID-19 on the front lines, while also delivering assurances to individuals and their families that they will be protected when seeking care. However, employees are sacrificing their jobs because they believe it is an infringement on their freedoms.

About 25 participants attended a meeting to discuss the protest at the Victory Fellowship Church on Saturday night, Nov 20.

According to Lou Ellison, emergency department outpatient coder and who is not an official spokesperson of the hospital, MHSC receives a significant amount of their funds from CMS.

She believes she “should have a choice to either accept the vaccine shot or not.”

“Last year the healthcare workers were heroes,” said Ellison. “They did not know what they were dealing with.

“We are now facing losing our jobs.”

One of the discussions at the meeting focused on a memo published by the Liberty Council regarding the COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

According to the memo, individuals who are rejecting the COVID-19 vaccine based on personal autonomy, bodily integrity, religious beliefs or other grounds have rights to do so.

“There are those who have applied for their religious exemption and are waiting to hear back, myself included,” Ellison explained.

“I hope that the CMS will realize the impact that this could have on our community if the people who help take care of those in this community are without a job.”

Ellison added, “I believe that we will have the support of our community once we make our voices heard. I can only pray that it will make an impact on our community.

“We all want to continue to work, but we don’t want to be forced to take the vaccine.”

Ellison believes that MHSC might lose about 200 employees.

She mentioned her concerns for the laboratories and dietary department since they may be affected the most.

“How do you feed the patients? They need to eat.”

Wyoming Cancer Resources coordinator Kelly Sugihara believes “the patients and Sweetwater County residents will suffer because of the mandate.”

She believes the protest will bring awareness.

“It will be an empowering event,” said Sugihara. “The federal government is holding the hospital hostage.

“It’s terrible.”

Announcements of the upcoming protest have been posted to social media.

“We don’t know much about it, only what has been posted in social media," said MHSC Marketing Director Deb Sutton. “While our hands are tied with the CMS vaccine mandate, we do support anyone in our community who would like to share with CMS what they believe the impact of this mandate will be on themselves or their community.”

Since Nov. 5, individuals have had 60 days to send comments to the CMS.

According to Sutton, Medicare and Medicaid patients consist of 48% of MHSC’s payer mix; 25% of its revenue collections.

“Non-compliance with CMS would mean a loss of $23 million annually,” Sutton revealed.

Sutton said that the hospital has maintained employment of about 540 to 550 people in a wide variety of departments since the first of the year.

“As of November 19th, 84% of MHSC’s employees are vaccinated,” Sutton noted. “That percentage continues to increase.”

The Liberty Council’s memo states that employers may not determine employment on taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Furthermore, the memo mentions that no one, including private businesses, may coerce individuals to take the vaccine by threatening their job or otherwise.

Protester Robert Mortensen said he had not been fired, but if the federal mandate passes, he’ll have to make a choice.

Mortensen has noticed a difference in treatment between those who received the vaccine and those who haven’t been vaccinated.

“People are being treated as second class citizens when they don’t have the vaccine,” he shared. “Individuals are losing their livelihood because their job wants to force them to get the vaccine.”

Mortensen started fighting the mandate because he noticed the discouragement among friends, especially after the stress the pandemic put them through.

“They know eventually they won’t have a choice.”

He added, “I truly believe that the only way this will end is if enough people stand up and say ‘that’s enough.' The end is not in sight. If we don’t make a stand now, we will be forced to fight.”

The memo also pointed out that the COVID-19 vaccine cannot be treated like FDA licensed vaccines. None of the COVID-19 vaccines are FDA licensed, nor have they received full FDA approval.

“Big businesses and government care about money and control,” he said. “Both are reliant on the people.

“That’s why the people still have the power… for now.”

The “Fight the Mandate” protest takes place near 1577 Dewar Drive on Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mortensen said the protest is about showing the people that they are willing to take a stand. He hopes many more will stand behind them.

“Because so many are willing to lose their jobs to fight this, others have to be willing to join. They don’t want to fight alone.”

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