Nurse applying vaccine on patient's arm wearing face mask

The nation’s largest nursing home operator said it met its goal of having all staff vaccinated “as promised” by its first deadline under its new COVID-19 inoculation policy. 

“While we unfortunately had some employees who were not willing to comply with the policy, despite the looming federal mandate, we met our deadline of 100% vaccinated staff, as promised  — excluding the small number of individuals who received medical or religious exemptions,” a Genesis spokeswoman told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Monday. 

“By being an early leader ahead of the federal policy, our facilities are now the safest place to be in skilled nursing for our patients, our residents, their families and our staff,” she added.

The company still did not reveal exactly how many employees it has terminated in accordance with its mandate. 

Genesis, which has more than 200 facilities and 40,000 employees, first announced in early August a vaccine mandate for all employees, volunteers, care partners and onsite vendors. The rule required workers to get the single-dose Janssen COVID-19 vaccine or the first shot of either two-shot mRNA vaccine by Aug. 23 or face potential termination. Those who opted for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines must have their second shot by Sept. 22. 

The company said it’s seen a “growing proportion of our colleagues willing to become vaccinated” over the last several weeks in both its initial pilots and a company-wide rollout. 

“Thoughtful and supportive dialogue, clinician-led and peer discussions about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and the looming federal mandate all played important roles in seeing the vast majority of our unvaccinated employees choose to become vaccinated,” the spokeswoman said. 

“We were also heartened by the very positive response we received from our patients, residents and families who enthusiastically support our approach to ensure the health and welfare of themselves and their loved ones,” she added. 

Now with the federal vaccine mandate the company stressed that the long-term care industry needs a coordinated public policy response where all employees working in a caregiving role that’s supported by federal dollars are subject to the same requirements. 

“Without equal treatment across healthcare, there will be a severe staffing shortage in skilled nursing,” Genesis said. “We are hopeful state and federal support will provide short-term relief and long-term funding stabilization so that the industry can offer market and competitive wages for not only the heroes that worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic but also to attract new healthcare workers to the sector and continue to provide high-quality care in all of our facilities.”