Nursing homes worry vaccine mandate will have devastating repercussions on labor shortage

Many nursing homes are worried the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers will have devastating repercussions on the already strained workforce.

The American Health Care Association, which represents over 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities throughout the nation that provide care to 5 million people each year, says the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

The Association is worried the move will have devastating repercussions on the already widespread health care worker shortage. It urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to show leniency to health care workers and consider regular testing options for the unvaccinated.

“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 president and CEO of AHCA Mark Parkinson. “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. We continue to ask that CMS and state surveyors show leniency during this critical time as well as consider a regular testing option for unvaccinated staff members to prevent worsening staff shortages.”

Parkinson said 83% of nursing home staff are already fully vaccinated.

“Long-term care providers have been relentless in encouraging staff to get vaccinated, and we have made considerable progress with 83 percent of nursing home staff now fully vaccinated. However, rampant misinformation has sowed doubt and concern among many on the frontlines. We must collectively address the root cause of vaccine hesitancy rather than penalize providers who are making valiant efforts.”

However, doctors in Kansas City at the University of Kansas Health System said the move was needed and celebrated the mandate on Friday.

Also on Friday, AHCA said nursing homes and assisted living communities continue to feel the burden of a worsening staff shortage. It said the profession has lost over 230,000 caregivers, nearly 15% of the workforce, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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