Philadelphia to Begin Enforcing Nursing Home Vaccine Mandate:

With the deadline come and gone for employees to be vaccinated, Philadelphia will begin enforcing the vaccine mandate for nursing home workers, says a Philadelphia Inquirer article.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health set Oct. 15 as the deadline for city hospitals, nursing homes, and higher-education institutions to ensure their employees had gotten at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Partially vaccinated employees need to get their second shot by Nov. 15 and must wear either an N95 mask or two regular masks and be tested regularly in the interim.  Employees who had not received even the first vaccine shot by Oct. 15 were prohibited from working after that date.

With the deadline past, the city sent out surveys to nursing homes to collect vaccination data. These surveys were required to be completed by Oct 24. Homes that fail to meet the requirements of the mandate face potential closure and fines ranging up to $2,000 per violation. Going forward, according to the Inquirer, the health department plans to conduct both scheduled and unannounced audits (both in-person and electronic) of vaccination records. Such audits could come as a result of data supplied by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or because of complaints.

The latest available data (from Oct. 3) shows the employee vaccination rate for Philadelphia’s 47 nursing homes as having climbed three percentage points from the previous week to reach 79%.  For twelve Philadelphia nursing homes, vaccination rates were under 70%. Two homes reported rates as below 50%.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) recently reached out to acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole with a letter warning that complying with the mandate could mean nursing homes will need to let go of as many as 2,400 employees.

According to the Inquirer article, some facilities are gearing up for the possibility of new staff shortages. Even prior to the virus, staff turnover was a problem in the nursing-home industry, and the pandemic led to a worsening of staffing problems. Applications for positions at some facilities have fallen dramatically. Some facilities are making plans to use workers from staffing agencies if positions are left empty. No plans have been made for the city to help nursing homes with staff shortages.

President and CEO of PHCA Eric Heisler said it may take some time to get a clear idea of new staffing issues as a result of the mandate. He stated that nursing homes continue to endeavor to educate employees about the vaccine and to ensure the vaccine is easily accessible to workers.

Philadelphia to begin enforcing nursing home vaccine mandate could lead to staffing shortages which often translate to decreased quality of care within nursing homes, resulting in such instances of nursing home neglect as the following:

  • BedsoresWhen staffing levels drop, the repositioning of at-risk residents in their beds or chairs does not happen frequently enough, resulting in patients developing pressure ulcers.
  • Nursing Home FallsIn understaffed homes, fewer staff members are available to help elderly residents move, resulting in falls from beds, wheelchairs, the toilet, and in the bath.
  • Medication ErrorsOverwhelmed workers in understaffed facilities can make mistakes regarding the type and amount of medication a patient requires.

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.