How is Vaccine Mandate Changing the Home Care Industry?
65.6 percent of the US population has received at least one dose of vaccination, 95.4 percent of those 65 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 84.2 percent are fully vaccinated, as per the Mayo Clinic. With powerful statistics like these, the US and its home health care industry are taking on a new look.
A protest has been observed in some home care and healthcare workers who refuse to get vaccinated, despite President Biden’s mandate lodged on September 10, 2021, for all private-sector employees, home care, and healthcare workers to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
“The unvaccinated group can cause a lot of damage, and they are,” said President Biden.
As per AP news, when several employees refused to get vaccinated, a hospital in Lowville, New York, had to close its maternity section. Over 125 employees at Indiana University Health quit after refusing to get the vaccine. This strengthens the unwillingness to get vaccinated.
Another similar example is Houston Methodist Hospital, where 25,000 employees were obliged to get immunized by June 7. Approximately 15% of its staff were unvaccinated before the mandate. By mid-June, the proportion had reduced to 3%, and by late July, it had dropped to 2%. A total of 153 employees were dismissed or quit, while another 285 received medical or religious exemptions, and 332 were given the option to defer.
The home care industry isn’t too far behind untouched. The majority of home health care aides, many of whom are immigrants, are paid about minimum wage and could easily find work elsewhere. Experts suggest that the second phase of the mandate will force home based care workers to quit and find work elsewhere, which pays on similar numbers.
A good read: COVID-19 Outbreak- Impact on the US Home Care Industry.
Effects on Home Care Industry
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that to avail the benefits of Medicaid and Medicare, vaccination of all providers and suppliers is non-negotiable.
“Data show that the higher the level of vaccination rates among providers and staff, the lower the infection rate is among patients who are dependent upon them for care. Now is the time to act. I’m urging everyone, but especially those fighting this virus on the front lines, to get vaccinated and protect themselves, their families, and their patients from COVID-19.” says Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.
Moreover, the home-care industry has been majorly understaffed since the onset of the pandemic, but now, with the mandate in place, the refusal has only grown stronger. Without enough workers to assist homebound seniors, the upcoming time does not look good. The shortage of workers could also lead to caregiver-providing agencies shutting down permanently and many seniors without the assistance they desperately require.
While the definite reasons for such powerful resistance by home healthcare workers are yet to be defined, some of the common reasons for vaccine hesitancy have been the notions that –
- It makes the individual sick
- It is unsafe to use
- It triggers allergies
- It may result in pregnancy and fertility concerns
- Lack of vaccine knowledge
- Lack of trust in facility leadership
What Lies Ahead?
According to the World Health Organization’s “State of the World’s Nursing Report,” a global shortfall of more than 10 million nurses is expected by 2030, with new nurses outnumbering retiring nurses.
Many firms may require proof of vaccination as a condition of access in the near future, says Margaret Foster Riley, a professor at Batten School, Virginia.
With a strong resistance against vaccination, many workers have sought unemployment insurance. There is no set path for unemployment insurance because it varies from state to state. When an employee resigns without good reason or is fired for intentional contempt of a valid direction from the employer, several states prohibit them from receiving unemployment benefits.
Agencies have also begun to create emergency staffing plans, including restraining new admissions, requesting extra help from family members of home care clients, and permitting over time, as per The New York Times.
According to the Ohio Capital Journal, health care has lost 524,000 workers since last year, with nursing and residential care facilities accounting for more than half of the loss.
Additionally, CMS is working on an Interim Final Rule with a Comment Period, which is expected to be released in October. CMS expects accredited Medicare and Medicaid institutions to comply with new COVID-19 vaccination requirements in the best interests of patients and employees. Workers in these facilities who have not yet been vaccinated are recommended to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
As per predictions, complete vaccination will be needed to return to normalcy and bring the country closer to safety. Although no details on how the federal vaccine mandate would be implemented have been disclosed, protests outside hospitals have already been commonplace, and employers are warning that significant numbers of staff may leave just when they’re needed the most. It is also predicted that many home health care workers may quit, owing to other available employment options.
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