An announcement Tuesday by President Biden that all nursing home workers will be required to be vaccinated against coronavirus has added additional stress to a healthcare industry already suffering from an unprecedented staffing shortage.
In Florida, over 90 percent of nursing homes are reporting serious workforce shortages. If these new regulations are added, it is feared that shortage will be even further exacerbated as staff leave nursing homes for other healthcare provider jobs not requiring vaccination.
Biden’s intention appears to be the protection of an extremely vulnerable population from the coronavirus. But, according to nursing home experts, this new regulation could put those fragile residents of nursing homes at greater risk of all sorts of unforeseen consequences arising from not having enough qualified staff on hand to care for them.
“We appreciate our state and national leaders’ efforts to keep COVID-19 rates low, and our long-term care centers have been working tirelessly for more than a year and a half with the same goal in mind. However, by the federal government singling out nursing homes with a vaccination requirement that does not apply to health care personnel at other locations and in other health care sectors, we fear that our already critical workforce shortages will worsen,” said Florida Health Care Association Chief Executive Officer Emmett Reed.
“Our recent survey showed that 92 percent of Florida nursing centers face serious workforce shortages. As our members maintain their commitment to protecting our state’s most vulnerable residents, it’s important they have the support they need to attract and retain long-term care staff. A strong and stable long-term care workforce is a crucial part of meeting the needs of those we care for today, as well as an aging population that is continually growing,” he said.
Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis was a leader in the effort to vaccinate seniors in Florida as quickly as possible with his Seniors First vaccination initiative. However, he is vehemently against vaccination mandates.
“The issue is going to be, what’s that going to do to staffing? They’re already short-staffed,” DeSantis said during a Thursday morning press conference in Ormond Beach. “There’s a lot of people that feel strongly against being mandated, that they think it’s something they should chose and they may have reasons why they make different choices. So I don’t know how it’s going to work. And there’s going to be a concern amongst these institutions about maintaining all the staff.”
He also said the federal regulation could deny nursing homes access to Medicare and Medicaid funding.
“So that is a massive hammer that they’re trying to bring down,” DeSantis said.