WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Vaccinate or lose funding. President Joe Biden is giving nursing homes an ultimatum. Either all staff get the COVID-19 vaccine or risk losing federal Medicare and Medicaid money. One Wichita care home is now at risk of losing 95% of its funding.
“It’s kind of like beating us over the head with a ball bat,” explained Elizabeth Howarth, administrator for Homestead Health Center.
She says this announcement caught her and many other nursing home facilities off guard.
“We’re all in pins and needles about how that’s going to affect our buildings as far as staffing goes. We don’t have any clue.”
For Howarth, what was startling is the level of punishment that these nursing homes could face.
“What is the purpose of taking away our funding? Why don’t you just say ‘we’re going to mandate everybody is going to get vaccinated, end of story,'” Howarth said.
Doug Stark with ComfortCare Homes says this shouldn’t be a surprise since vaccination mandates are starting to spread throughout the healthcare industry.
“We need to complete the circle,” Stark added. “The residents need to be vaccinated, the caregivers need to be vaccinated, and then we’re all protected.”
Homestead Health Center currently has about 65% of its staff vaccinated, but it’s been doing what it can to raise that percentage.
“We’ve been talking to our staff trying to educate them,” said Howarth. “Not only on vaccinations but how to deal with the delta variant out in the community.”
Presbyterian Manors Of Mid-America released the following statement regarding the new COVID vaccine requirements:
“Our organization’s stance- in the matter of President Joe Biden’s announcement that U.S. Nursing homes must use workers vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing vital Medicare and Medicaid funding- echoes that of two prominent leaders and advocates of the senior healthcare industry, American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson and Leading Age CEO Katie Smith Sloan, “Vaccination mandates for healthcare personnel should be applied to all healthcare settings. Without this nursing homes face a disastrous workforce challenge. “
“Biden’s plan can be summed up as the “tail wagging the dog” in that it loses sight that the pandemic impacted all health care settings – not just nursing homes. In this plan, Biden singles out only one sector of healthcare settings and demonstrates a lack of understanding of how health care is provided through a continuum of services of which nursing homes are only a part. In fact, by singling out nursing homes, this plan assures the unvaccinated employees will move to other healthcare settings that are not under the same mandate.”