ATLANTA – Ahead of the impending COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers across the county, many senior care facilities are lagging behind the national average for employee vaccination rates.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the mandate in August, with plans to cut Medicaid and Medicare funding from non-compliant facilities.
âEnsuring the safety of the residents of our nursing homes is our top priority. The data clearly shows that higher levels of staff immunizations are linked to fewer outbreaks among residents, many of whom are at risk of infection, hospitalization or death, âsaid CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure Sid in a press release. ”
Nationally, 64.4% of nursing home staff have already been vaccinated, according to the CMS report released through September 12; However, more than half of nursing home staff in many states are below the national average employee immunization rate.
While CMS is expected to issue a final rule and deadline in October, uncertainty remains in many agencies as some anticipate a greater staff shortage due to the vaccine required.
It is estimated that 220 of Georgia’s approximately 360 nursing homes have less than 64.4% of their staff fully immunized.
Pruitt Health, which owns about 50 nursing and retirement homes in Georgia, announced on Aug. 9 that it is making the vaccine mandatory for staff at all of its facilities.
The company’s Holly Hill location in Valdosta had a staff vaccination rate of 49.4% and a resident vaccination rate of 74.5% for the week ending September 12.
Director Terri Henley said the facility has been hosting vaccination clinics and is now administering the vaccine on site in hopes the group will meet the company’s Oct. 1 deadline.
âWe have a few employees who have filed for exemptions and two of them have been approved for exemptions,â Henley said.
Lisa Hodapp, director of the company’s Sunrise site in Moultrie, supports the vaccination mandate as an essential part of preventing potential staff shortages related to COVID.
âWe had staff issues when COVID hit us in late December because we had so many staff who contracted it,â Hodapp said.
The locality of Moultrie has a staff vaccination rate of 44% and a resident vaccination rate of 88.2%; however, Hodapp estimates that about 90% of its facility has been vaccinated since the September 12 report.
When asked if she anticipated any staffing issues related to the mandate, Hodapp responded that there could be potential staffing issues in departments other than nursing. The facility has around 50 employees and at least two have filed for exemptions, she said.
It is estimated that 150 of the more than 220 nursing facilities are below the current national staff vaccination rate.
Health Care Inc. in St. Clair County has one of the lowest staff immunization rates in the state, at approximately 24.4%; More than 73% of its residents in the establishment with 53 beds are declared vaccinated.
Since the last reporting period, facility administrator Kelly Allred said more employees have been vaccinated but there is still resistance among the nearly 40 to 50 employees.
âA few months ago there were a few small discussions of individuals suggesting that if they are forced to get the vaccine they are going to change careers,â Allred said. “I think understanding that there will be no unemployment [benefits], and you can’t work. We see a lot of flotation in our riding and its surroundings. But when you understand that it’s okay if you don’t like the healthcare decision, it’s going to be like that statewide and you’re going to have to change careers as a whole.
In contrast, Hanceville Nursing and Rehab in Cullman County is ahead with its vaccination rate of nearly 100% of staff, or about 97.1% of its estimated 245 employees.
Kristen Munger, deputy director of nursing, said she implemented the mandatory COVID staff vaccination policy in December 2020.
âWe had six employees who decided they didn’t want to get it and they tendered their resignations,â Munger said.
Munger said the facility administrator felt the tenure was appropriate, especially after much of its staff were out of work last year due to COVID or exposure to COVID. Since the implementation of the company’s mandate, the facility has gone more than 250 days without any positive cases of COVID, according to Munger.
“I’m sure some people have chosen not to work here because of it, but it’s always the right thing to do for our residents and our community and it’s evidenced by the number of days we’ve spent. COVID-free, âshe said.
Nearly 120 of Mississippi’s more than 200 Medicare and Medicaid-funded nursing homes are below the national average of 64.4%.
The Queen City Nursing Center is struggling to increase the vaccination rate of its staff, which currently stands at 42.1% of its nearly 100 employees.
âI’m really afraid of losing staff because I don’t want to get the shot,â said Maquan Johnson, the nurse responsible for infection control at the facility. âFrom nursing to kitchen staff who say they won’t take this vaccine and leave the facility. People already have in mind if they are going to get vaccinated.
The mandate comes as the facility is already looking to fill more than 20 vacant nurse-type positions, a trend among many healthcare facilities across the country.
âAt the moment, we plan to use a lot of [staffing] agencies, âJohnson said. “I just hope the agency can keep us afloat otherwise we, the people in the offices, will have to get out on the floor and take care of these residents because that’s our number one priority, to be there for our residents. .
âIt’s the worst I’ve seen,â Johnson continued. âWe’ve always kept a full complement and I know it’s because of COVID. And even though we didn’t have a full team and someone quit, we had a lot of nominations to choose from and we don’t even have that many nominations coming in now. “