Reports that the Biden administration plans to require that nursing homes mandate staff vaccinations or risk losing funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. (article linked here: https://www.cnn.com/.../nursing-homes-federal.../index.html)
While we typically refrain from mixing politics with healthcare, we feel a statement is necessary in this critical time.
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Following are excerpts taken from a statement from Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, the association of nonprofit providers of aging services, including nursing homes.
“Access to the COVID-19 vaccine has been the most important development of the pandemic for older adults and the people who care for them”—and as such, we have strongly encouraged our team members and residents to consider vaccination. We believe it is the right thing to do, not only for nursing home staff, but also all healthcare workers who care for people with high risk of contracting severe COVID-19. The entire healthcare community has been risking their lives every day for over a year to protect older Americans from COVID. The vaccine is the best proven protection.
“While often good intentions can be found in any government mandate, we believe the best approach is to provide good solid education based on facts and science and allow each individual to make a choice. Sadly, there is a pandemic of misinformation in our world today that has bred confusion and mistrust in our healthcare community. Propagating fear and mandating things will not restore that trust but will only add ammunition to those who spread misinformation.
“To penalize nursing homes by withholding or withdrawing funding is not the right way to increase vaccination rates. Without Medicaid and Medicare funding, nursing homes cannot provide the quality care that our nation's most vulnerable older adults need. Our mission-driven nursing home, (LeadingAge) members, who operate on narrow margins in the best of times, depend on those funds alone to care for their residents. They cannot bear additional financial losses after more than a year of shouldering historic COVID-related costs.
“The (Biden) administration is right; we are on wartime footing. Defunding the care providers who continue to fight on the frontlines would be a tragic misstep. Americans agree that elected officials have failed older adults and the people who care for them by ignoring and underfunding America’s aging services for decades. (Link here: https://leadingage.org/.../Survey%20-%20Investing%20in...)
“We await more information from the administration about how and when this new requirement will take effect, and look forward to learning more details on CMS’ reported plans to work with nursing homes, employees and other stakeholders to increase staff vaccination rates in advance of the effective date.” —Katie Smith Sloan
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A wise sister in the Lord just stepped into my office and said “God will provide if He wants this ministry to continue – right?” The answer to that is YES, without a doubt.
With that in mind, I would like to solicit prayer for the following decisions that Fairview Haven will undoubtedly face in the days ahead:
1. Regardless of one’s own personal opinion, there are team members who may be faced with leaving a career they love and were called to in order to stand on their convictions and feelings. Please pray that God will help them sort this out.
2. When team members make this decision, it could leave Fairview Haven (and all nursing homes) struggling with staffing shortages. Already, most nursing homes are struggling to find adequate staffing. While Fairview Haven has been blessed to be able to attract and retain high quality staff, a vaccine mandate may present a staffing challenge like we’ve never faced. Pray that God will fill the positions needed to continue this ministry as HE wishes.
3. Pray about a career in healthcare and, especially, long term care. We need high-quality individuals who have a calling to serve our seniors. This will be an ongoing need, regardless of vaccine mandates. The mandates will just add to the struggles.
4. Pray for the Administrative team and Board of Directors as we face decisions regarding the mandate. Likely, we will face difficult decisions, such as potentially scaling back the number of residents we can care for, reducing the number of Medicaid certified beds, etc. These are difficult times where our integrity will be challenged. Pray that God will help us discern the steps we should take to uphold the long-standing principles and values of Fairview Haven in light of the current situation.
5. On Saturday, July 31, Fairview Haven started another covid outbreak. This time around has been a little different as lessons have been learned and regulations have been updated. However, the same nightmare awaits us every day as we have many times seen the light at the end of the tunnel only to hear of yet another positive test. Our team is full of committed heroes! They work tirelessly to mitigate the spread of covid and care for those who test positive, often picking up extra shifts to cover for team members who themselves need to quarantine or picking up extra time to help staff the “covid unit.”
6. Please pray for our team and our residents! There are so many perspectives in the world regarding Covid-19. To many, it has been a pandemic that has touched their lives by limiting their social interactions and causing them inconveniences. To some, the pandemic has taken an economic toll. To some, it is considered a disease completely politicized and overblown to further the agenda of one party or another.
To our residents, it has been a time of fear, loneliness and discouragement. To our team, it has been an emotional nightmare. We’ve watched as our residents linger in depths of despair. We’ve cried as we see the fear in a resident’s eyes when they hear they’ve tested positive. We listened and tried to help as they gasped for air and struggled to breathe. And our hearts broke when we felt the defeat of watching them take that last breath, when we lost people we loved.
At the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare workers were hailed as heroes. Today, in many ways, they feel forgotten, unsupported and ostracized. We are still here, fighting the daily battle, and depending so much on the strength of our great God and on your prayers.
-Dave Blunier, Administrator, Fairview Haven