The Biden government announced last week that all nursing home workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or operators would risk losing Medicare or Medicaid funding. This has sparked concern among nursing home stakeholders and rumors that health care workers may not be far off.
Since the announcement, survey data has begun to prove why vaccinating all nursing home and home health workers would be a Herculean feat – and how it could put health care providers across the country in a precarious position.
According to a recent survey by post-acute management software company OnShift, only 57% of nurses have currently received the COVID-19 vaccine. Over 2,000 workers took part in the survey.
Almost 40% of respondents said they had not received the vaccine. Of those, only 8% planned to get it in the future.
More than half of the non-vaccinated respondents said they were looking for non-vaccinated jobs, with 39% unsure of their future employment status.
“With the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate for long-term carers, we wanted to leverage our unique connections with provider organizations and their employees to help them prepare for the ongoing personnel battle with the pandemic,” said Mark Woodka, CEO of OnShift, said in a press release announcing the survey results. “We hope this research will help provide insights into the mindset of long-term care workers in order to prevent a mass brain drain from the industry.”
First of all, there is a possibility that some of the unvaccinated workers may opt for home nursing and other facilities. If this happens, it could temporarily alleviate staffing shortages.
At the same time, there could be negative business repercussions for GPs becoming known as a “last resort” for unvaccinated workers, a point AccentCare CEO Steve Rodgers told Home Health Care News earlier this week. Additionally, any headcount increases can prove short-lived as some home care providers are already exposed to mandates at the state level.
New York state has already mandated that all home health and personal care workers receive at least one dose of the vaccine by October 7th.
“These survey results show exactly what we feared,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA / NCAL), in a statement. “Nursing homes cannot afford to lose more caregivers without jeopardizing access to long-term care for our residents. It is critical that the government extend the vaccine requirement to all health care providers and prevent the mass brain drain of nursing home staff. “
In another study, Caring.com also surveyed 2,000 caregivers for similar information. The results confirmed that hesitation about vaccines is not a problem for caregivers.
The results of the survey found that one in five nurses had not started the vaccination process at all and that only 50% were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Recommended HHCN + exclusives
Of those who weren’t vaccinated, a quarter planned to stay. The reasons they weren’t vaccinated ranged from being suspicious of the vaccines – the most popular reason – to believing that COVID-19 was completely a hoax. About one in ten caregivers unwilling to vaccinate believes that COVID-19 is a joke.
“In response to vaccination regulations, 54% of vaccine-reluctant nurses would rather lose their jobs than get vaccinated,” says the Caring.com survey results. “More than 50% of unvaccinated nurses do not wear masks in public or around people at risk.”
For now, home health and personal home care providers remain steadfast in their outreach and education efforts. But for much of the sought-after workers in these sectors, it appears that there is no influence.