Last week an insurance adjuster came over to scope out some storm damage.
Anyone who enters my home must be vaccinated or wear a mask (I keep clean masks at the front door. I’m nice like that). If it’s someone I don’t know, I ask their vaccination status before they enter. This insurance adjuster responded, “You’re not allowed to ask me that”. I responded that I definitely was because it’s my house. My house, my rules.
As soon as my son heard the exchange, he started taking notes to talk to the adjuster’s supervisor.
Many hospitals and skilled nursing facilities are requiring 100% vaccinations among staff, and that trend appears to be catching on. But in our state, only 49% of the general population has been vaccinated. Among healthcare workers, it’s not much better at 50.86%.
Among those who work in long-term care, 45% are refusing the vaccine. This means that of all the people who work with our infirm, frail and geriatric patients, half of them are at risk of giving a deadly virus to their patients. My mother was recently in the hospital and she was shocked to discover that those who were administering her tests and treatments were frequently not vaccinated.
A skilled nursing facility I’m working with experienced a tragedy with a COVID-19 negative patient, who got COVID-19 from a staff member and didn’t survive. We experienced a tragedy with a patient who got COVID-19 from the person who administered her flu shot. We experienced a tragedy with a long-term resident who miraculously avoided COVID-19 during the worst of 2020, but contracted it early this year from an unvaccinated staff member.
Our skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities are full of vulnerable residents who come into close contact with the unvaccinated. You wouldn’t let the unvaccinated in your house, but you’re letting them near those you care for. A recent column in The Guardian by a British ICU doctor went viral when she said that her patients requested the vaccine just before intubation, when it was too late. How many of our staff will want one when it’s too late?
There are those who say the vaccine isn’t 100% effective. You know what else isn’t 100% effective? Seat belts. Sunblock. Shin guards. Snow boots. Motorcycle helmets. Body armor. Their less-than-100% rate doesn’t mean you’d take the chance of not using any of those things to prevent injury. That doesn’t mean a police officer won’t wear her Kevlar during a traffic stop.
It is estimated that 115,000 healthcare workers have died of COVID-19 in just over a year. Many of those died before the vaccine was available, but healthcare workers continue to get sick and die because of bad information and poor decisions. And there’s an excellent chance they’ve infected others along the way.
It’s time for healthcare systems to get involved in the decision and mandate the vaccine. It’s not just a means of keeping our residents well, it’s a means of ensuring that our people can continue to work and continue to thrive in the environments we provide. We can’t lose any more of our workers, and time is running out. Your house, your rules.
Jean Wendland Porter, PT, CCI, WCC, CKTP, CDP, TWD is the regional director of therapy operations at Diversified Health Partners in Ohio.
The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.