The Biden administration announced last week that all nursing home staff must be vaccinated against COVID-19, or operators would risk losing Medicare or Medicaid funding. That prompted concern among nursing home stakeholders and rumors that home health providers’ staff may not be far behind.
Since the announcement, survey data is beginning to prove why vaccinating all nursing home and home health employees would be a herculean feat — and how it could put health care providers across the country in a precarious position.
Among long-term care staff, only 57% have currently received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recent survey conducted by the post-acute care management software company OnShift. Over 2,000 workers responded to the survey.
Nearly 40% of the respondents said they had not received the vaccine. Of those, only 8% were planning on getting it in the future.
More than half of the unvaccinated respondents said they planned to seek employment where vaccines are not mandated, with 39% unsure of their future employment status.
“With the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate for long-term care providers, we wanted to leverage our unique connections with provider organizations and their employees to help them further prepare for the ongoing staffing battle with the pandemic,” Mark Woodka, the CEO of OnShift, said in a press release announcing the survey results. “It is our hope that this research helps provide insight into the mindset of long-term care staff to help prevent a mass employee exodus from the industry.”
Initially, there’s a chance some of the unvaccinated staff opt to enter home health care and other settings. If that plays out, it could temporarily mitigate staffing shortages.
At the same time, there could be negative business consequences if home health providers become known as the “last refuge” for unvaccinated workers, a point AccentCare CEO Steve Rodgers made to Home Health Care News earlier this week. Additionally, any staffing gains may prove short-lived, with some home-based care providers already exposed to state-level mandates.
New York state has already mandated that all home health and personal care workers get at least one dose of the vaccine by Oct. 7.
“These survey results showcase exactly what we have feared,” Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), said in a statement. “Nursing homes cannot afford to lose any more caregivers without threatening access to long-term care for our residents. It is critical that the Administration expand the vaccine requirement to include all health care providers and prevent a mass exodus of nursing home staff.”
In another study, Caring.com also surveyed 2,000 caregivers to find out similar information. The results confirmed that vaccine hesitancy is just not a nursing home staff problem.
The survey’s results found that one in five caregivers had not started the vaccination process at all and that only 50% had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Of those who weren’t vaccinated, one-quarter planned on remaining so. The reasons for why they were not vaccinated ranged from distrust of the vaccines — the most popular reason — to believing that COVID-19 was a hoax completely. About one in 10 of vaccine-hesitant caregivers believe that COVID-19 is a hoax.
“In response to vaccine mandates, 54% of vaccine-hesitant caregivers would rather lose their job than get vaccinated,” the Caring.com survey results said. “More than 50% of unvaccinated caregivers don’t wear masks when in public or around at-risk individuals.”
For now, home health and personal home care providers remain steadfast in their outreach and education efforts. But for a great deal of the coveted workers in these sectors, it seems like no swaying will be done.