Many nursing homes across the country are now having to figure out how to get all of their employees vaccinated or risk losing federal funding as early as September. President Biden made the announcement Wednesday to try and increase the vaccination rate among healthcare workers in long-term care facilities.
Florida has nearly 700 licensed nursing homes in the state. About 46% of its employees are vaccinated, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicade Services. That is the second lowest vaccination rate in the country for employees working in nursing homes. The national average sits at 60%.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis believes the mandate will actually hurt the long-term care industry, causing additional shortages in an industry already hurting for staff.
“I don’t know how it’s going to work,” said DeSantis. “There’s going to be a concern among these institutions about maintaining all the staff. That is a major hammer to bring down.”
Jamie Mongiovi with AARP of Florida say you can’t point to a vaccine mandate as the sole cause for the shortage in staff.
“Unfortunately, staffing levels in long-term care in Florida has been an ongoing issue,” said Mongiovi. “And that was present well before the pandemic started.”
But the question remains, what will facilities with low vaccination rates do once the mandate goes into effect?
NSpire Healthcare in Lauderhill only has 12% of their employees vaccinated, according to CMS records. When NBC 6 News reached out to them, an administrator said they are encouraging employees to get vaccinated. And they are currently working on a plan for when the mandate goes into effect.
Another South Florida facility called Aventura Rehab and Nursing Center has an employment vaccination rate of 14%, according to CMS records. When NBC 6 New contacted them, an unidentified person said, “We don’t’ want to discuss that with the news.” And hung up the phone.
Hundreds of thousands of nursing home workers are not vaccinated, according to federal data, despite those facilities bearing the brunt of the early COVID-19 outbreak and their workers being among the first in the country to be eligible for shots.
In just the past three weeks, Biden has forced millions of federal workers to attest to their vaccination status or face onerous new requirements, with even stricter requirements for federal workers in frontline health roles, and his administration has moved toward mandating vaccines for the military as soon as next month.
Biden has also celebrated businesses that have mandated vaccines for their own workforces and encouraged others to follow, and highlighted local vaccine mandates as a condition for daily activities, like indoor dining.
If you or a family member are looking to go into a long-term facility, its recommended to ask questions about their vaccination rate and what types of precautions they are taking.