President Joe Biden, whose patience is self-admittedly “wearing thin” with unvaccinated Americans, announced a yet-to-be-seen federal vaccine mandate in early September — including for healthcare workers.
The mandate reportedly covers 17 million healthcare workers across the country. And unlike his proposed mandate for businesses, which would offer frequent testing as an alternative to the Chinese coronavirus vaccine, healthcare workers must take the vaccine (unless granted an exemption) or face termination.
“We would have to let people go,”CEO of Ability HomeCare Pam Goble told NPR. “I worry if our patients, who are medically fragile children, are going to get the care they need.”
Ability HomeCare is a pediatric home health care agency in San Antonio, Texas, that serves 900 children. Goble said of her 261 nurses and therapists, 56 have have decided to forego the vaccine.
“I am one of those people that really feels everybody should have their choice,” she said.
Ted LeNeave, who is the CEO of Accura Healthcare, told NPR he “can’t afford to lose anyone.” Accura Healthcare operates 34 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. Staffing shortages have already reportedly led to limited admissions.
“With about 1,000 of his employees — 38% of his workforce — unvaccinated, LeNeave is calling on the federal government to provide a testing option for health care workers,” according to the report.
LeNeave contends that unvaccinated employees should be regularly testing and wear full PPE instead of being terminated — “a safer alternative to losing a lot of workers.”
“I just don’t see how I can lay off a thousand people,” LeNeave said. “I’d have no one to take care of the patients, and there’s nowhere to send the patients.”
Healthcare workers around the country have already been quitting or retiring at a higher rate because they are “exhausted or demoralized by the crisis,” the Associated Press reported. In the past few months and as hospitals began announcing their own vaccine mandates, resignations increased again, often coupled with protests outside of the hospitals.
Before Biden announced the federal mandate, hundreds, perhaps even “thousands,” of North Carolina healthcare workers gathered at Charlotte’s Freedom Park and marched to Atrium Health to protest the healthcare system’s mandate, which impacted 70,000 people, according to WSOC-TV.
Staten Island hospital employees also gathered in August in protest of New York’s vaccine mandate, which requires healthcare workers in the state to get vaccinated by September 27.
In New York, Lewis County General Hospital had to stop delivering babies until after September 24 because so many maternity workers resigned over coronavirus vaccine mandates. According to the report:
Health care workers had priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine back in December 2020, but nine months later, many are still reluctant to get the shots. Vaccination rates remain low in some states and among some subgroups of health care workers such as nursing assistants.
LeNeave said he expects many nursing assistants to change professions in order to avoid the mandate.
“Especially with our facilities in rural areas, we could lose nurses to go work at Casey’s or Kum & Go,” he said, referencing a convenient store chain.
According to the report, certified nursing assistants “who bathe, feed, and groom nursing home residents,” are among the lowest paid workers in the country.
“There are plenty of other options for those who want out,” the report states.