Nursing home organizations concerned about vaccine mandate may lead to staff shortages


MADISON (WKOW) – President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a new vaccine requirement for many nursing homes, but nursing home organizations fear they will drive away much needed staff.

The Biden administration’s requirement applies to long-term care facilities that receive federal funding from Medicare and Medicaid. All staff must be vaccinated or the funding would disappear. The mandate could come into effect as early as next month.

“We are urging and even begging all healthcare workers to get vaccinated,” said Rick Abrams, CEO of the Wisconsin Health Care Association and the Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living (WHCA / WiCAL). “It’s the right thing to do for the safety of the person, the safety of her family, the residents she cares for – her safety and the community as a whole.”

Despite the immunization support, Abrams says a federal mandate for long-term care staff misses the mark. He fears that for people who have resisted the pandemic for so long, a warrant will only serve to backfire.

“We have employees who are locked in, basically saying, ‘I’m not getting the vaccine,’ and a federal warrant probably won’t change their minds,” Abrams said.

The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA / NCAL), the national organization with which the WHCA / WiCAL is associated, felt that the new immunization mandate unfairly targeted long-term care staff.

In a statement, this organization said:

“The government should not choose a pool of providers for mandatory vaccinations. Vaccination mandates for health workers should be applied to all health care settings. Without it, nursing homes face a disastrous workforce challenge. Focusing only on nursing homes will cause workers hesitant about vaccination to flee to other health care providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents … We look forward to working with them. administration in the coming days to develop solutions to overcome this challenge. “

Marc Parkinson
President and CEO, AHCA / NCAL

Abrams says Wisconsin nursing homes cannot afford shortages at this time.

“If they leave the facilities, it will not only exacerbate the labor crisis our facilities currently face, but it will also jeopardize the high quality of care our most vulnerable and sickest residents of Wisconsin deserve.” , did he declare.

In his announcement on Wednesday, President Biden said he strongly believes that a mandate is the right decision.

“These steps are all about protecting people and getting them out of harm’s way,” Biden said. “If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at high risk of contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees. “

Source: Wisconsin DHS

Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows that the number of COVID-19 investigations in long-term care facilities has increased every month since June.

Abrams says that just under 60% of staff at Wisconsin long-term care facilities are currently vaccinated.

“Sixty percent is not enough,” he said. “But again, a federal mandate will not impact the market.”

Abrams says that instead of a federal mandate, he would rather see staff who choose not to be vaccinated wear an N95 mask and, in many cases, distance themselves socially. He says WHCA / WiCAL supports individual facilities that decide to require vaccines if it makes sense for their unique circumstances, but believes general mandates don’t change minds in the same way as one-on-one conversations. -head with staff hesitant to vaccinate.

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