Posted by on January 14, 2022 3:09 pm
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Biden vaccine mandate will exacerbate nursing home staff shortages, industry warns

FILE – In this April 1, 2021, file photo May Nast arrives for dinner at RiverWalk, an independent senior housing facility, in New York. Responding to the ravages of COVID-19 in nursing homes, two senior Democratic senators Tuesday introduced legislation to increase nurse staffing, improve infection control and bolster inspections. The bill from Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania is part of a broader overhaul of long-term care that’s just getting started. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) Seth Wenig/AP

Biden vaccine mandate will exacerbate nursing home staff shortages, industry warns

Cassidy Morrison January 14, 02:36 PMJanuary 14, 02:36 PM

The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for workers at government-funded healthcare facilities, upheld on Thursday, threatens to push out workers at nursing homes already struggling to maintain employees.

“We respect the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court but remain concerned that the repercussions of the vaccine mandate among health care workers will be devastating to an already decimated long term care workforce,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, a trade organization representing over 14,000 nursing homes.

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Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have seen worsening staffing shortages since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. More than 420,000 workers have left their jobs at these facilities since February 2020, according to monthly tracking by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, a September 2021 survey by the AHCA reported that nearly every nursing home and 96% of assisted living facilities in the U.S. are facing a staffing shortage.

WHITMER UNDERCOUNTED MICHIGAN NURSING HOME COVID-19 DEATHS, AUDITOR GENERAL REPORT TO FIND

The survey also found that a vast majority of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, 86% and 77%, respectively, said their staffing problems had worsened over the previous three months, the period in which the delta variant was terrorizing seniors and staff at those facilities.

“When we are in the midst of another COVID surge, caregivers in vaccine hesitant communities may walk off the job because of this policy, further threatening access to care for thousands of our nation’s seniors,” Parkinson said.

The AHCA is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to institute a testing alternative for workers who will not get vaccinated but want to stay on the job, an option that CMS-funded healthcare workers do not currently have.

Senior care facilities that have not mandated their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine will have to do so now that the Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the requirement set down by the Biden administration in November last year. The rule applies to roughly 17 million healthcare workers across roughly 76,000 hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities that receive funding from government healthcare programs Medicare and Medicaid. It was initially set to be enforceable on Jan. 4, when all workers were required to become fully vaccinated, meaning two doses of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Federal judges in Missouri and Louisiana ruled against the mandate for healthcare employees soon after President Joe Biden announced the requirement last fall. The majority conservative Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Thursday to uphold the mandate while blocking the controversial vaccine-or-test mandate for employees of big businesses, enforceable by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Because healthcare facilities that receive federal funding are authorized to require other vaccinations, such as those for hepatitis and measles, the justices decided that the mandate “fits neatly within the language of the statute.”

“All this is perhaps why health care workers and public health organizations overwhelmingly support the secretary’s rule,” the unsigned majority opinion said. “Indeed, their support suggests that a vaccination requirement under these circumstances is a straightforward and predictable example of the ‘health and safety’ regulations that Congress has authorized the secretary to impose.”

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Vaccine uptake among nursing home staff was high even before Biden announced the shots would be required. More than 73% of staff had been fully vaccinated by the end of the first week of October, according to federal data. Still, the mandate made a noticeable difference in vaccine uptake. Slightly over 2% of employees signed on to get their first shots the week of Nov. 4, when the mandate was announced. That rate increased consistently through the week ending Dec. 12, when almost 4.5% of workers got their first shots. To date, more than 83% of nursing home staff have completed vaccination regimens.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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