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Indiana nursing homes say vaccine requirement for workers will make hiring more difficult

Nursing homes are relying on OT and staffing agencies
Saint Anne Communities is a nursing home and assisted living provider located in Northeast Indiana. They are limiting admissions because they can't find enough people to work.
Posted at 4:20 PM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 18:01:50-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The federal government announced on Thursday it is requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible staff at health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The emergency regulation comes as a blow to Indiana nursing homes and assisted living facilities are already strained finding workers.

A recent American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) survey found that 86% of nursing homes and 77% of assisted living providers say their workforce situation has gotten worse in just a few months.

Elaine Wilson, COO at Saint Anne Communities, told WRTV requiring vaccinations will make it more difficult to recruit and retain workers.

“Some feel very strongly against the vaccine for personal reasons, and it does leave us very vulnerable to people choosing positions outside of health care,” Wilson explained. “Workforce in long-term care has been a struggle for a while and the pandemic especially really made that a problem for us."

Saint Anne Communities has 100 residents in its nursing home and 80 residents in its assisted living facility.

“Medicaid and Medicare are our main funding sources and they don't fully fund the care of residents' needs,” Wilson said. “So as other industries can charge more, like a restaurant, we can't just charge more.”

Many facilities have to turn away new residents.

The AHCA/NCAL survey also found that 58 percent of nursing homes have had to limit new admissions because of a lack of employees.

“We are seeing that definitely,” Wilson said. “We want to focus on the residents we have in the house. So we have limited and it puts families that seek care from us in a really tough position. We don't have the hands to care for their family unfortunately so they are left trying to find someone who can assist them with long-term care needs. "

Saint Anne Communities and other long-term care providers are relying on overtime, double-time, and outside agencies to help cover staffing needs.

Wilson emphasizes you do not have to have a nursing degree to work in a nursing home.

“There's a lot of opportunities outside of nursing,” Wilson said. “There's various positions from dining, housekeeping, and laundry. Activities is a great role. We focus on giving our residents a good quality of life."

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) released the following statement today regarding the release of an emergency regulation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requiring all workers in Medicare and Medicaid-certified health care settings to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Statement from Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL:

“Once again, we appreciate the Biden Administration’s efforts to ensure that as many workers as possible in all health care settings are vaccinated. Nursing home providers have dedicated themselves to increasing staff vaccination rates, and as a result, three-quarters of employees are fully vaccinated today. We are committed to forging ahead and encouraging all staff members to get these safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.“While we support the overall intent of this CMS policy, we are concerned that the execution will exacerbate an already dire workforce crisis in long-term care. A hard deadline with no resources for providers or a glide path for unvaccinated workers is likely to push too many out the door and ultimately, threaten residents’ access to long-term care. “Even a small percentage of staff members leaving their jobs due to this mandate would have a disastrous impact on vulnerable seniors who need around-the-clock care. Across the country, access to long-term care is becoming strained as providers have no choice but to limit admissions or even close their doors due to workforce shortages. We hope to continue working with the Administration to make the federal vaccine mandate successful while supporting our residents and caregivers.”

AHCA/NCAL represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year.

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