They take care of the elderly, often in their own four walls. They even help clients in retirement homes.
However, home health workers are struggling to get COVID-19 vaccines, although vaccines in Texas and much of the country are initially focused on frontline health workers.
A local company is now talking about how this sector of the industry has unfortunately gotten into a blind spot with vaccine adoption.
“We have healthcare workers who really were the forgotten front. They bring people home from the hospital, from the emergency room, and go to their homes where the patient may have COVID-19, the family may have COVID-19. And I think it’s just one group that is being forgotten in the process, ”said Dr. Anna Loengard, Chief Medical Officer of AccentCare based in Dallas.
She oversees approximately 30,000 home and hospice health care workers in Texas and across the country. Her staff have cared for thousands of COVID-19 patients since last March, but she is struggling to get them vaccines directly.
Would you like to be put on a waiting list for vaccines?
As the state begins distributing the COVID-19 vaccines to those in Phase 1A and 1B, the county’s health departments created waiting lists for those who would like to be vaccinated.
You can now register to get vaccination in Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties. Links are below:
You do not need to be in the county to register for COVID-19 vaccination in that county. Registration is open to anyone in Texas. Tarrant County also accepts registrations by phone at 817-248-6299 for those without Internet access. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS Vaccine Hotline at 469-749-9900. Call Denton County 940-349-2585.
“As a leader in this company, it was very difficult to tell employees, ‘I’m trying,” “Loengard said.
Why is the vaccine difficult to secure for these workers? The answer consists of several levels.
Home health workers typically work at patients’ homes, with some of their daily work taking place in hospitals and senior facilities. However, because they don’t work in the same place all week, they are often not included in official vaccine distributions for hospitals or nursing homes.
“What we’ve seen, in general, is that health systems were given to vaccinate their own first – understandably. Her staff have been very leaders in fighting this virus and taking care of the patients, ”she said.
Companies like that AccentCare Loengard said they have to respond to dozens of government regulations for vaccine adoption.
“Because the entire vaccine is at the state level, we have so many different plans and they were similar but not exactly the same,” she explained. “And then most of the vaccine got into health systems, as you can imagine, because some of those vaccines need to be frozen. It was very important that it be centralized. This cannot just be distributed to everyone. “
Despite multiple requests for partnerships to distribute vaccines to domestic workers, Loengard said she kept bumping into walls as it preferred locations such as hospital systems, senior facilities and vaccination centers.
“It really has us at the mercy of our healthcare partners,” she said. “But many of them really stepped on the plate [we’re having] to stay updated. Knocked on the door and said, “Have you vaccinated everyone who is the greatest risk in your hospital?” and ‘Don’t forget us!’ ”
She even tapped her administrative staff to call pharmacies to see if there was a potential partnership there to assign vaccines to her employees.
“We tried very hard to turn every stone to see if we could find a vaccine, but as such a huge healthcare company it doesn’t feel very satisfying,” Loengard said.
Right now, home health workers are struggling through the county registration process, which is difficult enough everywhere.
“Through a lot of hard work we’ve been able to give our employees a variety of options by sending out links to help them sign up right away and telling them to bring their ID and letter stating they are a key healthcare worker “Said Dr. Loengard.
She said she believes only about 10% of her home health care professional’s thousands have been vaccinated to date. There are also reports that some facilities and customers do not allow home health workers near patients until they are vaccinated.
The hope is that either the federal government or the pharmacy chains can come up with a solution to prioritize them for the vaccine.
“In my conversations with the President of the National Association for Home Care and HospiceThey don’t really see a lot of federal conversations for all of their members in this health care area, ”Loengard said. “We want the government to recognize that we have been excluded in its process and that we have employees who are still genuinely at risk and need to be thought of.”