UPDATED: Federal Judge Grants Montana’s Request For Injunction On CMS Vaccine Mandate, Benefis Insists on Jab

UPDATE (7:50pm): Post updated to include vaccine mandate retractions from Billings Clinic and Sidney Health Center.

Update (12/1/2021): Montanans for Health and Family Rights reported on their Telegram channel from Benefis employees that Benefis Health System CEO John Goodnow will be moving forward with vaccine mandates for healthcare workers despite the Federal Judge’s ruling and in defiance of Montana law HB-702.

A U.S. District Court Judge granted Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s request for a preliminary injunction against the COVID-19 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services vaccine mandate, which was set to take effect Monday, December 6, 2021. The vaccine mandate is now stayed in Montana and all other states.

“In the past weeks, I’ve heard from healthcare workers across our state whose jobs were being threatened if they did not comply with President Biden’s overreaching federal mandate,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “With the CMS mandate now blocked in Montana until the case is decided, medical facilities have no reason to threaten their employees if they don’t get the vaccine.”

Area hospitals instituted mandates under pressure from CMS including Community Medical Center. CMC hospital administration who went a step further and stated that they “fully support the federal vaccine mandate” in a letter to healthcare workers telling them to get the jab or get a new job. Hospitals who insist on mandates past the date of the Judge’s decision risk lawsuits from workers under a new Montana law, House Bill 702, which adds vaccination status as a protected class including in employment.

The judge enjoined and restrained the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS, along with their directors, employees, Administrators and Secretaries from implementing the CMS mandate as to all healthcare providers, suppliers, owners, employees, and all others it attempts to cover.

“During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties,” U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty wrote in the order. “The liberty interests of the unvaccinated requires nothing less.”

Healthcare workers from across the state gathered Sunday to protest healthcare worker vaccine mandates, drawing over a thousand people out to city centers and shopping districts across Montana.

The preliminary injunction will remain in effect pending the final resolution of this case, or until further orders from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, or the United States Supreme Court.

Tuesday evening, some Montana hospital administrators sent notices to healthcare workers notifying them they were backing off vaccine mandates. Montanans for Health and Family Rights (MTHFR) shared some of the notices on their Telegram channel including notices from Sidney Health Center and Billings Clinic. Great Falls’ Benefis Health System CEO John Goodnow informed employees they would still require vaccine mandates for healthcare workers despite no Federal precedent and in violation of Montana law, according to employee reports to MTHFR.

Click here to read the full ruling that grants Attorney General Knudsen’s request for a preliminary injunction.

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