Mark Felix / AFP / AFP via Getty Images
When Pam Goble first heard that President Biden was making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for healthcare workers, she had only one thought: it was about time.
Goble is the owner and CEO of Ability HomeCare, a pediatric home care agency serving 900 children in San Antonio, Texas.
Of its 261 nurses and therapists, 56 refused to be vaccinated.
“I’m one of those people who really thinks everyone should have a choice,” Goble says. It has not imposed its own vaccine mandate even though the delta variant has caused a spike in Covid cases among its employees and the families they serve.
Now she fears her unvaccinated employees will refuse to comply with the federal mandate once it is implemented later this fall.
“We should let people go,” she said. “I am concerned if our patients, who are medically fragile children, are going to receive the care they need.”
Biden’s tenure covers 17 million healthcare workers
Healthcare workers had priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020, but nine months later, many are still hesitant to get vaccinated. Immunization rates remain low in some states and among certain subgroups of health care workers such as nursing assistants. As part of his efforts to get more Americans vaccinated, Biden essentially told 17 million healthcare workers: get vaccinated or get out. It has not offered them the testing option that it offers workers in most other industries.
Details on how the federal vaccine mandate will be implemented have not yet been released, but protests have already become regular events outside of hospitals, and employers warn they could see large numbers. of workers quitting just when they need it most.
It is difficult to predict how many people will actually leave their jobs during the vaccine’s tenure. In June, after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by healthcare workers at the Houston Methodist Hospital over its vaccination mandate, more than 150 workers quit or were fired.
Lewis County General Hospital in upstate New York said it would stop giving birth this month after six people from the maternity ward resigned due to the vaccination mandate of New York.
In Maine, where the governor announced a mandate to vaccinate health workers in mid-August, hospitals have so far only reported a handful of resignations, but enforcement of the mandate is still in overdue. ‘a month.
Losing even one or two workers would be a problem
“I can’t afford to lose anyone,” says Ted LeNeave, CEO of Accura HealthCare, which operates 34 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Dakota. South. Due to understaffing, they had to limit admissions, turning away patients from hospitals.
With about 1,000 of its employees – 38% of its workforce – unvaccinated, LeNeave is calling on the federal government to provide a testing option for healthcare workers. He proposed that those who are not vaccinated undergo regular testing and wear full PPE, arguing that it is a safer alternative than losing a lot of workers.
“I just don’t see how I can fire a thousand people,” says LeNeave. “I wouldn’t have anyone to take care of the patients, and there is nowhere to send the patients.”
LeNeave offered its employees incentives to get vaccinated, including the chance to win $ 1,000 in the lottery, but he says many remain fearful. Some cite false claims about the effect of vaccines on fertility while others want to wait a year or two to see if problems arise. And then there are those who are against it, period.
Healthcare workers can choose to change their profession
He expects many will change professions to avoid getting shot. Certified practical nurses, who bathe, feed and groom nursing home residents, are among the lowest paid workers in the United States. There are many other options for those who want to go out.
“Especially with our facilities in rural areas, we could lose nurses to work at Casey’s or Kum & Go,” gas station convenience stores. In these jobs, workers would have the option of getting tested rather than getting vaccinated.
In Texas, Goble is baffled that so far into the pandemic, and with more than a thousand people dying from Covid every day, vaccines remain so politicized.
“I keep hearing this anti-vaccine argument about freedom,” she said. “But I want my freedom to live off a pandemic. And I want the children and families we serve to have that right too.”