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Skilled nursing, intermediate care facilities already struggle to staff ahead of vaccine mandate

nursing home shortage
Posted at 10:44 PM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 23:24:52-04

CLEVELAND — Needless to say, the past 19 months or so have been a rollercoaster for health care workers.

"Since the pandemic started it has just gotten worse and we are probably at the worst we've ever been right now," said Superintendent of the Geauga County Board of Developmental Disabilities Don Rice.

Rice oversees the care of nearly 1,000 people with developmental disabilities and said the facilities he oversees are struggling with staffing.

“We've started meeting with many of the providers to learn if we have open beds and if there is a way that we can collapse two homes together,” said Rice. “If we have a four-bed house and only two people or three people are there, maybe we can bring somebody from another house over and combine."

Rice explains the struggle could get even worse.

In September, President Joe Biden announced all health care workers employed by Medicare or Medicaid-funded facilities will face vaccine mandates.

Right now, OSHA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services are still hashing out the language for the mandate, but rice said 40 percent of his staff remains unvaccinated and don't plan to be.

“If this mandate goes into place, even losing one or two more people out of that would have a negative consequence,” said Ohio Healthcare Association’s Pete Van Runkle. “If we lost 40% we’d be hammered.”

That fear is no different in nursing homes, Van Runkle believes there won't be a test or vaccinate exemption for workers at Medicare or Medicaid-funded facilities.

“The concern is how many of staff members are going to refuse to take the vaccine and are going to go somewhere else that isn't under the mandate," said Van Runkle.

Van Runkle estimates another few weeks until the mandate is rolled out and said it will be a big blow to skilled nursing facilities if they lose more workers.

“Hopefully the regulation will provide some time,” said Van Runkle. "People deal with things better when they get some time to think about it.”

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