Nursing home industry worries vaccine mandates will force facility closures

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Almost every U.S. nursing home (99 percent) and assisted living facility (96 percent) is facing a staffing shortage, according to a Sept. 22 survey from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living. 

Now, the industry is concerned vaccine mandates could worsen the shortage and lead to facility closures. 

The survey, distributed to 1,183 nursing home and assisted living providers, found 78 percent of nursing homes are concerned they'll have to close if shortages persist. Sixty-one percent of assisted living facilities said the same. 

Respondents pointed to a lack of interest or qualified candidates as the biggest obstacle to hiring new staff. Forty-five percent of nursing home operators selected vaccination requirements as the biggest obstacle. 

The White House announced Aug. 18 a vaccine mandate requiring all nursing homes to ensure their staff are vaccinated in order to continue receiving federal funding. 

In New York, enforcement of a mandate requiring all healthcare workers to be vaccinated goes into effect Sept. 27. 

Stephen Hanse, president of the state Health Facilities Association, recently urged New York's health department to pause the mandate to prevent the termination of potentially thousands of unvaccinated employees.

As an alternative, he requested Howard Zucker, MD, New York's health commissioner, amend the policy to authorize "at least on a temporary basis, unvaccinated healthcare workers the ability to continue to work so long as they are subjected to regular COVID-19 testing and utilize all necessary [personal protective equipment,]" the Times Union reports .

About 64 percent of nursing home staff in the U.S. were vaccinated as of Sept. 12, while 84 percent of residents were inoculated, according to data from CMS.

 

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