Vaccination mandate for workers in healthcare settings. Long term care employees – STAT

While Rhode Island enjoys a greater than average vaccination rate, some of the holdouts have been individuals in closest to those at highest risk – our medical workers. We’re talking about all those who enter the doors of our nursing homes, assisted living, hospitals and other medical settings. They need not be direct medical workers – they include service staff in maintenance, food service, and laundry, and administrative staff, volunteers, etc.

At most nursing homes, not a whole lot has changed in the restrictions our loved ones are living with. Family visits aren’t free-flowing – they’re severely curtailed – some restricted to make-ahead appointments, only once or twice a week, visiting in the lobby, not in loved ones private rooms. Masks are still being worn by staff, and when residents are outside of their rooms. Screenings are still being done for everyone coming into the building. You can’t eat with loved one – even in the lobby – you can’t even enjoy a coffee and doughnut together. Activities among residents are still limited. Outside entertainment is not what it was. Interaction has forever changed. And forever is a short time for those loved ones in nursing homes.

Nearly all our residents are vaccinated. But what about staff? We really don’t know for sure. But they are not 100% vaccinated. Because no nursing home that we know of mandates vaccines. Some estimates by those in the industry are 50%, 60%, maybe close to 80%, but we just don’t know – and it’s time to change that.

The Healthcare Management group says the numbers are going in the right direction – but gives these stats: 75% of physicians, 57% of nurses and 48% of CNAs are vaccinated. Not enough. Not nearly enough. Will we get there by encouraging onesies and twosies? We don’t think so.

Even hospitals have non-medical people mandated for certain diseases, such as the flu – and mandatory screening medical exams. Some may be surprised to learn that. Want to work there? Get a flu shot. Simple as that.

Mandating vaccinations as a condition of employment is legal and has held up in legal challenge for private employers.

We know that the explosion in cases right now is not in the elderly – it’s 20 to late 40 year olds – people who are unvaccinated – we know that vaccinating protects the elderly and also the workers who work in close quarters in medical settings.

Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) support vaccination mandates. In Rhode Island we’ve seen calls for all medical workers at Lifespan and Care New England to get vaccinated or no longer hold the jobs they have.

This week, HopeHealth, which provides home care and hospice services, announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees, students, volunteers, and contractors. Here is their statement:

“HopeHealth announced this week that it will require its 610 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 20, 2021. The mandate will apply to all employees, students, volunteers, and contractors. Close to 80% of all HopeHealth employees are currently vaccinated, with that number increasing every week. “For over eighteen months we have seen the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in our communities. The evidence is now significant that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in reducing hospitalizations and death from the virus,” said Edward Martin, MD, MPH, FAAHPM, HopeHealth’s Chief Medical Officer.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, HopeHealth has cared for over 1,200 COVID-19 positive patients. “We want to provide our patients and their families with the peace of mind that their HopeHealth care team is vaccinated regardless of where they are receiving care – in their home, a nursing home, a hospital or at the Hulitar Hospice Center,” said HopeHealth President & CEO Diana Franchitto. “Recent increases in transmission rates driven by the highly contagious Delta variant are concerning. The COVID-19 vaccine is our best defense in protecting our community.”

RI Health Care Association

In February of this year RINewsToday asked Scott Fraser, director of the RI Health Care Association, a nonprofit representing Rhode Island nursing homes, about the vaccination rates among nursing home staff. Fraser replied, “In checking with our members (skilled nursing facilities only) we were seeing about 60% uptake of the vaccine during the first round of injections. After the second round, I am hearing of some homes in the 80% and above range for staff. I don’t have numbers for every facility, but Rhode Island has been well above the national average, which was 37.5% for staff after the first round. Overall staff acceptance at our member homes seems very good, but I cannot speak for non-members or assisted living facilities.”

Fraser continued, “I am not aware of any home making vaccinations mandatory, although it is within their authority to do so.”


New AARP COVID Dashboard Shows Less Than Half of Rhode Island Nursing Homes Meet Industry Benchmark for Staff Vaccinations – AARP Urges Continued Vigilance to Protect Residents from Virus

The latest release of AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard incorporates new data on vaccination rates among staff and residents, and finds that just 47.3% of Rhode Island nursing homes meet an industry benchmark of having at least 75% of staff fully vaccinated. 

Nationally, slightly more than half of health care workers in nursing homes were fully vaccinated (56%) and about 78% of residents were fully vaccinated as of the week ending June 20. Here in Rhode Island, 88% of residents have been fully vaccinated and 71% of staff.

At the national level, COVID cases and deaths have dropped significantly from the previous dashboard release. Deaths of nursing home residents in Rhode Island increased from what they were in the previous period, rising from zero to 2 per 100 residents. Resident cases, however, dropped from 0.67 per 100 residents to 0.10 and new staff cases declined from 0.81 to 0.17 per 100 residents.

AARP RI New State Director, Catherine Taylor concerned about Delta variant in nursing homes

“The general drop in cases and deaths in nursing homes is welcome news,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Catherine Taylor, “But the potential for the highly contagious Delta variant causing more harm to residents and staff is very real. We must do everything we can to keep them safe from the virus, which means encouraging residents and staff in long-term care facilities to get a free COVID vaccine to protect themselves, their family and their community.”

AARP recently submitted a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) recommending the federal government commit to working with states, long-term care facilities, and other entities to ensure that facilities can access and administer vaccines on a continuing basis for the foreseeable future. The letter also applauds CMS for publishing data on nursing home vaccinations, and calls on the agency to offer that data in a more user-friendly format. AARP has repeatedly urged transparency and public reporting about the impact of COVID on nursing facilities.

Governor Baker – Massachusetts

This week Governor Baker called for all medical workers to show proof of vaccinations. The Baker administration announced Wednesday that all staff in long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing facilities and the state’s two Soldiers’ Homes, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 10.

According to the state’s press release, as of Aug. 2, about half of the 378 skilled nursing facilities in Massachusetts had less than 75% of their staffers fully vaccinated.

“Today’s actions reinforce the state’s commitment to ensuring the safety and care for these residents, some of our most vulnerable residents,” the administration said in its statement.

Staff includes everyone employed by the provider, either directly or contracted.

Governor McKee – Rhode Island

This Tuesday, Governor McKee will hold a COVID-19 status update and press conference. At this press conference, the Director of the RI Department of Health, Dr. Alexander-Scott is expected to attend. We hope vaccinations for nursing home and medical workers will be a major recommendation – or mandate – that will be made this week.

200,000 Rhode Islanders are eligible for the vaccine – but have opted not to get one. Dr. MacDonald, of the Health Department calls the Delta variant “an optional pandemic” – there’s no reason we had to be here.

We know what we did wrong last time. We know who we let down. We know who we need to protect more than any other group – our seniors, our frail, those with medical conditions and those in medical care.

Let us begin – again – with all sadness that we must – and let us begin with our healthcare workers.

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