Ky. Nursing facilities Worry Vaccine Mandate Can create Worker Shortage

Kentucky nursing home administrators are worried that a new federal mandate for his or her employees to get vaccinated will result in a worker shortage.

President Joe Biden announced plans on Wednesday to withhold Medicaid and Medicare funding from nursing homes that do not require their employees to obtain the shot.

Betsy Johnson, president from the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, said nursing home industry leaders strongly support their workers getting vaccinated, however, many employees don't want to.

\”Our health care workers are people too. They're influenced by things they see on social networking, members of the family, misinformation, political debates about COVID-19,\” Johnson said.

\”Regardless of the fact that they wear the hat of the health care worker or somebody that works inside a skilled nursing facility does not alter the proven fact that we must address those issues.\”

Johnson said almost all nursing homes won't be able to survive without Medicaid and Medicare funding.

According to federal data, 51.6% of nursing home workers in Kentucky are fully vaccinated, the seventh-lowest rate in the nation. The vaccination rate for all Kentuckians is 47%, according towards the Mayo Clinic.

Nursing homes happen to be a hotbed for coronavirus cases, especially in early stages within the pandemic before vaccines were widely available.

As of June-the last time Kentucky released a report on deaths in long-term care facilities-2,323 residents and 9 staff in the state passed away of coronavirus throughout the pandemic. That's 32.3% of the 7,180 total coronavirus-related deaths reported by Kentucky at that time.

As of August 19, as many as 7,468 people have died of coronavirus in Kentucky, however the state no more reports which deaths take place in long-term care facilities.

The federal Department of Health insurance and Human Services is still drafting the regulation for the nursing home vaccine regulation, to take effect next month.

Gov. Andy Beshear said he recognizes nursing homes' concerns about a staffing shortage, but said their employees want to get vaccinated.

\”If they're unvaccinated, the probabilities they are getting this deadly virus to the facility are extremely much higher, then they're exposing those who are a lot more fragile,\” Beshear said.

\”I believe there is a responsibility to the people the individuals who operate in our nursing facilities serve to get vaccinated.\”

Earlier this month, 11 major hospital systems in Kentucky announced they would require employees to obtain vaccinated.

A Republican state lawmaker has proposed an invoice to ban businesses from requiring workers to obtain vaccinated. The measure will be considered during the next legislative session in January.

Johnson, using the Kentucky Association of Healthcare Facilities, said the only thing that will alter the minds of people that are vaccine hesitant is hearing positive experiences from people they know.

\”It's one-on-one conversations, it's having people within those buildings, aligning them track of those who are hesitant and achieving them have conversations,\” Johnson said.

\”People in government and people on television can talk all they need, however, you really need to have somebody who you trust.\”

Ryan Van Velzer contributed to this report.

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