Nursing home for workers: get vaccinated or lose your job

NEW YORK (AP). The nation’s largest nursing home operator told its workers this week that they will have to get the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their jobs – a possible shift in an industry that has largely rejected coercive measures for fear of triggering massive employee exodus. this could exacerbate an already dangerous staffing shortage.

The new requirement for Genesis Healthcare, which has 70,000 employees in nearly 400 retirement and senior citizens’ homes, is a clear sign that such institutions may be willing to take such risks, given the growing delta option and the fact that more than 40% of the US population nursing home workers still have not received the vaccine.

Some experts are calling for mandatory vaccinations in nursing homes, warning that unprotected employees pose a danger to residents. Even residents who have been vaccinated are vulnerable because many of them are elderly and weak, with weak immune systems.

In the week ending July 25, more than 1,250 US nursing home residents contracted COVID-19, more than double the number a week earlier, and 202 died, according to federal data.

“It’s so easy now to say, ‘Well, Genesis does it. Now we do it, ”said Brian Lee, who leads Families for Better Care, an advocacy group for patients living in long-term care. “This is a big domino to fall.”

Lawrence Gostin, professor of public health law at Georgetown University, said he also envisions a “snowball effect.” He said it was “shameless” to resist vaccination orders at this stage.

Some local governments are taking the decision out of industry control: This week Massachusetts and Denver announced mandatory vaccinations in nursing homes.

The issue has become more pressing as the highly contagious delta variant is driving the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the United States to an average of about 90,000 per day – the maximum since mid-February – and causing a sharp increase in hospital admissions in states such as Florida and Louisiana, up to the highest level. levels since the start of the pandemic.

Despite the horrific losses caused by the disease in nursing homes, many of the country’s 15,000 institutions have abandoned compulsory vaccinations for fear of large numbers of workers being laid off. Nearly a quarter of nursing homes already have a shortage of nurses or nursing assistants.

But interviews with the Associated Press last week with managers of 10 mostly small nursing homes across the country requiring vaccines showed that the threat of vaccine layoffs could be exaggerated, with numbers far lower than expected.

After the Canterbury Court in Atlanta announced the mandate in January, CEO Debi McNeill was so scared of a “mass strike” that she invited medical experts to speak to workers, met with dissenting people, and invited staff to gather in the community. a meeting room that heats up sometimes.

In the end, only 10 of the 180 workers quit, and McNeill said the Canterbury retirement home, self-help and nursing home hasn’t had a single new case of COVID-19 since February.

“It was a risky game,” McNeill said. “I thought it would require more people by now.”

At the Jewish Home Family in Rockley, New Jersey, only five of 527 nursing home and nursing home workers quit. A Westminster village in Bloomington, Illinois, only lost two out of 250.

“Educating is important, but at some point we must end this pandemic,” said Scott Crabtree, CEO of Lambeth House in New Orleans, who only lost 10 of 200 workers after he needed vaccinations when they became available. Last year. “When we say, ‘Enough, enough? “”

More than 130,000 residents of nursing homes in the United States have died from COVID-19, making such facilities by far the deadliest place during a pandemic. According to government figures, about 80% of residents have been vaccinated, which is double that of staff.

Some employees have refused the vaccine because they believe it was launched in a hurry and unsafe, or they feel protected because they have already contracted COVID-19.

“It’s too early to put this shit in my body,” said Christina Chiger, a nursing assistant at a nursing home in Tampa, Florida. “How many years did it take to perfect the polio vaccine? It was done in months. “

Others have been falsely rumored to have been given the vaccine from dead babies, contain microchips, or make you sterile. The final comment concerned Michaela Murray, a nurse’s assistant at a nursing home in Alabama, where vaccinations were mandatory.

“I was a little worried, but I spoke to the doctors and they reassured me,” said Murray, who agreed to get the vaccine to keep her job at the Hanseville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where only six of the 260 employees quit. …
“I had COVID and didn’t want to go through it again.”

Pennsylvania-based Genesis said vaccinating volunteers was appropriate earlier during the pandemic, but not now, as a more infectious variant is spreading and only 65% ​​of its employees have received vaccinations. Genesis is giving employees until August 23rd for their first chance.

“To be successful against the delta variant will require a much higher vaccination rate,” said chief physician Richard Feifer. “Our tactics in the fight must change.”

Jennifer Moore of Hollywood, Florida, whose husband lives in a nursing home where only 35% of staff are vaccinated, said it was also an ethical issue.

“Whenever I see a story about someone opposing the vaccine, I just want to scream,” said Moore, whose husband Thomas has Parkinson’s. “I understand that people are worried about the vaccine, but these people are working with the most vulnerable segments of the population. They have a duty to their patients. “

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