President Biden’s vaccine requirement for nursing home staff not sitting well locally

By Joshua Smith

President Joe Biden’s announcement last week requiring the staff of nursing homes to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is not sitting well with local facilities. 

President Biden said his administration will make vaccination a prerequisite before those facilities will be able to receive funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.

Much like the rest of the country, nursing home facilities throughout Clay County have struggled to maintain employees during the pandemic. According to a survey conducted in June 2021 by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, 94% of nursing home providers had experienced a shortage of staff members in the previous 30 days.

Austin Gillard, CEO of Clay County Medical Center, said that President Biden’s mandate could have the effect of placing an additional burden on a pool of labor that is already struggling because of COVID.

Gillard said Clay County Medical Center, the managing entity for Liberty Place Assisted Living, is already complying with a host of recently implemented and continuing practices for COVID mitigation, including social distancing and mandatory face coverings. He said this latest mandate from the President, may be a step too far for health care providers who have chosen to not receive the vaccination.

“A mandate like this on a national level will continue to push qualified health care workers out of their chosen field,” said Gillard.

Gillard isn’t the only one with concerns. Eve Ebner, Director of Nursing at Medicalodge of Clay Center said her facility was waiting on guidance from the Kansas Health Care Association but questioned why other medical facilities were not being held to the same standard.

“Why only nursing home facilities? We are already dealing with staffing issues without this sort of requirement.”