Nursing Homes Fear Vaccination Mandates Will Worsen Staff Shortages

Nursing homes battling against worker shortages and high staff turnover are now worried that the recent vaccination mandate announced by the Biden administration will lead more staff to quit, says an article in USA Today. The emergency regulation announced by President Biden on August 18 saying nursing home staff must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or facilities will lose Medicare and Medicaid funding could go into effect as early as next month, and while some nursing home administrators are in favor of their employees receiving the vaccine in order to protect vulnerable elderly residents, others worry the regulation will send reluctant staff to find employment in healthcare outside of the nursing home industry not included in the mandate, such as hospitals, clinics, and home health care agencies.

Despite workers’ early eligibility for the vaccine, and in spite of the devastation wrought last year by COVID in the nation’s nursing homes, American staff vaccination rates remain between 44% and 88%, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), meaning hundreds of thousands of nursing home workers nationwide are unvaccinated. The president’s mandate comes as new nursing home outbreaks of the highly-contagious Delta variant continue to sweep through regions with low staff vaccination rates.

According to CMS, Medicaid and Medicare funding supports more than 15,000 of the nation’s nursing homes. Experts say the withdrawal of this funding would be crippling for most facilities. Even with this in mind, many nursing home administrators cannot help but to be concerned about how staff members who remain disinclined to be vaccinated might react to the new mandate.  USA Today references an Ohio long-term care company that reversed its vaccine mandate once staff members threatened to quit. Noting an Ohio facility currently unable to fill nearly 20 open positions, Ohio Health Care Association head Pete Van Runkle stated in the article that he was worried the new mandate would only worsen the staffing problem.

Nursing homes fear vaccination mandates will worsen staff shortages; staffing issues can lead to a number of problems within nursing homes that affect quality of care and often amount to nursing home abuse or neglect. Among these problems include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Bedsores – Frequent turning and other repositioning by caregivers, in conjunction with regular hygiene, nutritional, and hydration measures, is paramount in preventing bedsores, which are also known as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, and pressure sores. When staffing levels drop, the required attention needed from nursing home staff by residents at risk of developing bedsores becomes difficult to give.
  • Medication Errors – Workers in understaffed facilities can become overwhelmed and make mistakes regarding the type and amount of medication a patient requires.
  • Nursing Home Falls – In homes where staffing is an issue, overwhelmed workers have less availability to assist elderly residents in and out of beds, wheelchairs, and the bath, or on and off the toilet. Residents left to fend for themselves are more likely to fall.

Ensuring the Safety of Your Loved One

Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes are at all times required to secure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents by meeting certain health and safety requirements and providing adequate care. To meet these standards, the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives must be equipped to avoid the kind of substandard care that amounts to nursing home neglect or abuse. This includes ensuring adequate, quality staffing. Should you have concerns about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home during COVID-19, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.