Bucks County has confirmed that five Neshaminy Manor employees who have refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will leave jobs in the county, while nearly two dozen have received exemptions.
Commission chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia confirmed that a full-time certified nursing assistant and four part-time CNAs or registered nurses will leave after the county made the vaccine a condition of employment earlier this year.
The county-run, 360-bed nursing home in Warrington has 454 employees, and by Tuesday – the county set deadline – 422 had started at least the two-dose vaccine regimen or the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, Ellis, receive. Marseglia said.
Another 23 employees were granted exemptions based on “reasonable accommodation” for disability or “sincere religious belief, practice or observation,” she said. These employees may need to wear additional personal protective equipment, added Ellis-Marseglia.
There are currently four employees on the Family Medical Leave Act, but they are expected to receive a vaccine or waiver upon their return.
The COVID-19 vaccine is the only one that is considered a condition of employment at Neshaminy Manor. The seasonal flu vaccine is also required for employees, but those who just refuse will have to wear a mask from October through April, Ellis-Marseglia said.
More:Neshaminy Manor employees have a choice: Take the COVID-19 vaccine or lose your job
Neshaminy Manor’s stance on the COVID vaccine is an outlier among long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania and the United States that were at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This could gradually change, however, as a handful of long-term care companies recently reversed their position as vaccine-optionalists.
Most long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania did not require employees to receive the vaccine. Including facilities where the virus has badly broken out.
It is widely recognized that staff transference is responsible for COVID outbreaks in long-term care facilities during the pandemic, as these facilities have been locked for almost a year.
In Erie County, which operates the 270-bed Pleasant Ridge Manor nursing home, employees do not need to be vaccinated, although 230 residents and 163 employees there have done the most COVID-positive tests, according to state health data. The house has reported 55 deaths attributed to COVID.
Up until a few weeks ago, just over half of Pleasant Ridge Manor’s 200-plus employees had reportedly received the COVID vaccine.
That news organization was unsuccessful in soliciting comments from Robert Smith, executive director of Pleasant Ridge Manor.
According to CEO Meredith Mills, around 55% of employees are vaccinated at Country Meadows, which operates ongoing care facilities as of February with 38 facilities serving 2,500 Pennsylvania residents.
In some facilities the rate was 92% and in others 45%, Mills said. She blamed the lower turnout for fear and misunderstanding about the vaccine.
She added that mandating vaccines could become problematic for current employees as new employees are added based on the availability of the vaccine.
The executive director of Wesley Enhanced Living Doylestown declined to disclose how many residents or employees were vaccinated against the virus. State health data shows 91 total doses were given by residents and 60 total doses were given to staff.
“While not mandatory, we strongly encourage all residents and employees to receive the vaccine,” said Steve Cherry. “We are also working diligently with a variety of vendors to create a specific program, based on vaccine availability, to ensure that new residents and team members continue to have vaccines.”
Newly released government health data shows that, on average, just over half of the 104,194 skilled nursing home workers – 52% – have taken the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to an average rate of around 80% for home residents.
On average, less than half of nursing home workers are currently vaccinated in 35 counties. No data was provided for assisted living and nursing homes under the supervision of the Department of Human Services.
In Bucks County, the average vaccination rate for staff is 60% versus 83% for residents. Montgomery County’s employment rate is slightly higher at 55%, but the population rate is slightly lower at 81% compared to Bucks County.
The Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities, recently surveyed its members and found that 65% of its employees were vaccinated. The survey reflected responses from 83 members, just under a quarter of the 390 members.
About 5% of residents and workers who may be new, according to survey results, have not had the opportunity to get vaccinated through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership program, which ended last week.
About 35% of respondents also said they are still developing plans to secure vaccines for these new residents and hires.
“This sample of long-term care providers in Pennsylvania shows that a government plan is needed so we can continue to vaccinate our most vulnerable residents and their care providers,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of PHCA. “Without a plan, we risk the return of another spring surge and ultimately the lives of thousands of long-term care residents.
More:COVID-19, a year later: pandemic leaves trauma, questions to nursing homes in Pennsylvania
Long-term carers have consistently caused at least half of all new COVID-19 infections among state health workers. This is a percentage that has not changed in the months since the vaccine became available to these facilities in late December. This emerges from an analysis of government data.
According to studies, caregiver reluctance to take the COVID vaccine is a national problem.
In the first month that COVID vaccines became available in the US, around 78% of residents received at least one dose, compared with only 38% of staff at those facilities, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to a poll by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation released this month, more than four in ten health care workers had not been vaccinated in the past month. The survey interviewed 1,327 frontline health workers in the United States who had direct contact with patients from February 11 to March 7
The survey found that 50% of workers in long-term care facilities reported having at least one dose of COVID vaccine, compared to 66% of hospital workers surveyed. Overall, 52% of healthcare workers said they had started the vaccination regimen.
However, the survey of long-term carers found that more than one in three were “not confident” that the vaccines had been adequately tested for safety and effectiveness.
Three in ten workers said they were still on the fence because they were vaccinated or did not want to be vaccinated. One in six workers said if employers needed the vaccine they would stop.
According to the survey, vaccination rates are particularly low among health care workers who are black and have low-paid jobs such as housekeeping and people with less education.
A small but growing number of operators are joining Neshaminy Manor with employee vaccination mandates.
Juniper Communities, which operates 22 facilities in four states, including a long-term care community in Bensalem, needs vaccines for employees. According to an article in the New York Times, around 30 employees have reported quitting because of the nearly 1,300 request.
Silverado, another chain of memorial homes, has mandated its 1,300 employees to receive the COVID vaccine by March 1. Sunrise Senior Living, with facilities in Lower Makefield, North Wales and Abington, recently announced that its employees will need to be fully vaccinated by the EU in late July.
Neither the CDC nor the Occupational Safety and Health Agency have issued guidelines on vaccine mandates. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in December that mandates would not violate the Disability Act or civil rights laws regarding discrimination.
More:The Neshaminy Manor union representative urges the board to reconsider its COVID-19 vaccine mandate
Comments are closed.