A staffing crisis that is already causing a claim in Chautauqua County may get worse for some health facilities because of New York State’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Lisa Haglund estimates that between 70 and 100 unvaccinated workers at Heritage Ministries quit before a federal notice at locations in Chautauqua County. That’s about 10% of Heritage employees, said the president and CEO of the nonprofit that provides rehabilitation, skilled nursing, assisted living, and long-term care across multiple facilities.
“We are all together in this process” Haglund said about the potential impact of the mandate on staffing levels. “We are at a point where we are losing some of our employees.”
Former Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered in August that all health care workers receive their first dose of the vaccine by September 27 – based clinics and hospice care programs – must have workers vaccinated by October 7.
A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily prevented New York from enforcing the mandate after a group of 17 health professionals filed a lawsuit saying their constitutional rights were violated because the mandate did not allow religious exceptions.
Meanwhile, Haglund said Heritage is regularly monitoring its staffing situation and has already had to reduce admissions to ensure adequate care for its current residents.
“We are grateful that we have not yet been evacuated. We keep an eye on the approvals every day “, She said in an interview Tuesday and noted that Heritage has focused on recruiting nurses and housekeeping helpers.
Fredonia’s WCA Home on Temple Street announced last week it was preparing for the loss of nearly a third of its staff due to the state’s vaccine requirement. The facility announced that six unvaccinated employees have announced their departure.
“With no other choice, we started preparing dismissal plans for half of our population.” said Christine Davis Mantai, president of the WCA Home Board of Directors. “This is painful and heartbreaking for them and us. We are working with the District Aging Bureau and the State (Ministry of Health) to carry out this operation as efficiently as possible and in accordance with all laws protecting the elderly in these situations. For this reason we decided to warn our families and look for other accommodation in other facilities as soon as we knew the effects of the vaccination order on our staff. “
Nick Ferreri, owner of Tanglewood Group, said in a letter from State Senator George Borrello that employees who resign will one “ominous situation of severely understaffed facilities for those who remain gainfully employed.”
“So ominous” Ferreri added, “I think it will be extremely difficult to keep them resilient enough to keep going. One hundred memory-impaired dependent residents and another 130 elderly residents, many of whom have no families or opportunities, will need someone to look after them. Qualified care facilities (nursing homes) are already refusing new admissions and other assisted living facilities are dismissing residents in anticipation of the upcoming deadline. “
The situation for nursing homes is getting worse, Haglund said the state has cut its Medicaid reimbursement payments. Most of the care that residents of nursing homes in New York receive is paid for by Medicaid. Additionally, she said Heritage did not get funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for mandatory COVID testing.
“New York State Continues to Cut Funds for Our Seniors” said Haglund. She compared the cuts to reimbursement payments, a lack of FEMA funding, and the need to hire more employees at higher wages in order to keep them as a state “We have to fly an airplane while we’re building it, and they haven’t even given us the right tools.”
She also played on a. at “Trifecta” Operations impact: the pandemic, pre-existing staff shortages and government regulations that will lead to further staffing problems.
At Lutheran Jamestown, some unvaccinated staff have indicated their intention to leave because of the mandate. Tom Holt, Lutheran President and CEO, said the organization will continue to promote the vaccine to its employees. He noted that, as elsewhere, there are employees who do “buried” and will refuse to get a COVID vaccination and others in health care likely to be “Hold hope” that the mandate is canceled.
Holt wouldn’t estimate how many employees he thought could leave before the deadline.
As in the past, Holt praised the employees for their commitment during the pandemic. “You did a great job” he said. “You’ve been through so much and worked so hard.”
He said he was “100% support the vaccine” and that Lutherans were fully committed to providing a safe place for its residents. He said Lutheran and other organizations had written to the state health commissioner encouraging officials not to take a nationwide approach to vaccine policy, but rather to pursue it regionally.
UPMC Chautauqua, the county’s largest hospital provider, was asked if the mandate had any impact on staffing levels. A hospital spokeswoman replied: “We strive to give our employees every available opportunity to get vaccinated before the deadline by providing convenient on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinics, and we are focused on educating them about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Vaccination is an important step to contain the spread of COVID-19. “
In North County, the Chautauqua Nursing & Rehabilitation Center has advertised positions that include Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, and Housekeeping. The Dunkirk facility also offers sign-up bonuses.
HOSPITAL TOP 30
The number of people who test positive for COVID-19 in local hospitals continues to rise. The Chautauqua County Health Department reported 31 hospital admissions on Tuesday, an increase from four over the weekend and 19 over the past seven days.
The number represents those in Chautauqua County’s hospitals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, regardless of residence. The COVID hospitalization rate has not exceeded 30 people since the beginning of the year.
The health department also recorded 49 new virus cases from information gathered on Monday. Of these, 22 came from the Jamestown zip code, five in Fredonia, and three each in Dunkirk and Lakewood.
There are currently 374 active cases of the virus in the county, 868 people in quarantine, and a seven-day positivity rate of 10%. To date, there have been a total of 10,806 cases and 10,265 recoveries and 167 virus-related deaths.
Since August 1, there have been 1,462 new cases, 54% unvaccinated, 16% fully vaccinated, 7% partially vaccinated and 23% with unknown vaccination status.
More than 62% of the county’s population over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, while 56.6% are fully vaccinated.
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