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Nursing homes concerned about Biden’s vaccine mandate

Some in the nursing home industry are concerned about President Joe Biden’s requirement that all nursing home staff members be vaccinated. Facilities have a lot to lose – including federal funding if those new requirements aren’t met.

“I think that we’re being set up to fail, we’re going to fail the most vulnerable and frail in our community,” said Chase Kohn, chief operating officer Caring Place Healthcare Group.

Nationwide, the numbers show there are more unvaccinated staff members in nursing homes than there are residents. The long-term care industry faced a nationwide shortage of employees before the coronavirus pandemic.

The Caring Place Health Group operates six senior living communities in Southwest Ohio.

“It’s been a tremendous challenge for our entire industry and specifically for us,” Kohn said. “We probably have 15 to 20 openings per facility.”

And with the new vaccination requirements, he said he’s concerned about losing even more employees. Kohn said about 70% of their employees are vaccinated. He’s concerned about their facilities losing Medicaid and Medicare funding if some of his employees decline the vaccine.

“Instead of penalizing us financially, I think the federal government should have been partnering with us to develop better strategies to educate the unvaccinated individuals in our facilities,” Kohn said.

Advocates are hoping for some alternatives like frequent COVID-19 testing and additional PPE.

“Something to give them an option besides quitting and leaving our patients with not enough staff to take care of them,” Ohio Healthcare Association executive director Peter Van Runkle said.

He added that solutions are needed for the sake of those who need help the most.

“What’s better for the patient?” Van Runkle asked. “An unvaccinated staff person who is wearing a mask, PPE as needed and is getting tested regularly, or having so few staff members that they ring their call light and no one comes for 15 minutes because they’re busy taking care of other people? That’s not good for our patients.”

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