ST. LOUIS – President Joe Biden announced all nursing home staff will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If a nursing home doesn’t comply, Biden said Medicare and Medicaid funding would be withheld.
The mandate does not apply to residents in nursing homes and it’s not clear when compliance is required.
“If you work in a nursing home and serve people on Medicare or Medicaid, you will also be required to get vaccinated,” Biden said. “More than 130,000 residents in nursing homes have sadly, over the period of this virus, passed away.”
A total of 81.69 percent of nursing home residents in Missouri are vaccinated, similar to the nationwide statistic of 82.8 percent.
However, the number of nursing home staff vaccinated in Missouri is much lower than the national average. The Show-Me State ranks third to last nationwide for its 47.39 percent of staff vaccinated.
The national average is 60.5 percent.
“Vaccination rates among nursing home staff significantly trail the rest of the country,” Biden said during his address Wednesday.
Dolan Memory Care Homes in St. Louis County already mandated the vaccine for its staff and residents in February.
“We made a commitment to our families and we made a commitment to our residents, that we were going to be in the safest and the only way to do that is to be vaccinated, we made that determination in February, it was very controversial at the time,” Tom Dolan, the owner of Dolan Memory Care Homes said.
“The people that they are around are highly compromised, and they are the folks that if they would contract covid, may have a serious outcome and may die, I tried to convince my staff that it wasn’t about them it was about the people they are around.”
Dolan said he is glad to see the mandate from President Biden, but was surprised he plans to withhold funding if places don’t comply.
“That’s kind of a dicey call, I got to hand it to him for doing it, I don’t know how that’s going to work out, we will see how that plays out, he’s serious about it, we’re serious about It too,” he said.
Dolan said they didn’t experience pushback from families and residents when they mandated the vaccine, but they had pushback from staff and about 8-10 employees left instead of getting the shot.
Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, which represents more than 14,000 care facilities reacted to the mandate and said he is concerned the vaccine mandate will decrease staffing at nursing homes nationwide:
“Focusing only on nursing homes will cause vaccine-hesitant workers to flee to other health care providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents.
“It will make an already difficult workforce shortage even worse. The net effect of this action will be the opposite of its intent and will affect the ability to provide quality care to our residents. We look forward to working with the Administration in the coming days to develop solutions to overcome this challenge.”
Dolan said their facility is able to administer the vaccine and stores the shots on-site, along with being able to perform rapid covid testing on site. He said they will also be able to give out the boosters when they are available.
“That is a fragile population, the healthcare workers need to be very cognizant of where they are going and be respectful of the environment they work in here at Dolan this is the resident’s home, so we are guests in their home, we need to be respectful and courteous of that,” Steve Vicalvi, director of operations at Dolan Memory Care Homes said.
Biden did not announce a date when compliance is required and when nursing homes could begin to lose funding if they don’t comply with the federal mandate.