After months of debating whether or not to mandate COVID-19 vaccines, some long-term care centers in Florida have decided it’s time employees get the shot or risk losing their jobs.
At La Posada Senior Living Center in Palm Beach Gardens, mandated masks became official two months ago. As part of the center’s decision, staff have until September 30th to get the shots or leave their post
“It was a difficult decision to make, we spent months talking about it,” said Executive Director Brad Cadiere. “After the last year we went through with our residents here, we felt it was the right thing to do to create the safest environment for them,” Cadiere said.
The center provides a home to 265 residents and its workforce is made up of 250 staff members. Since the center announced its mandated vaccine policy, Cadiere said they’ve witnessed a 20% increase in staff vaccinations. To date, Cadiere said they have just over 20 associates who have not been vaccinated.
“We were expecting 10- 15% who, maybe, would decide not to get the vaccine and, currently, we’re at 8% that have said they’re not going to get it,” Cadiere said.
Cadiere also said since January, the center has not had an outbreak of cases involving residents.
La Posada follows a small but growing list of long-term care operators who recently announced mandatory vaccine policies for staff, including Genesis, the nation’s largest single nursing home chain. Good Samaritan, which has several locations in Florida, also recently announced mandatory vaccines for employees.
In long-term care, workers are accounting for the majority of positive cases reported by facilities. Still, mandated vaccines have been a tough sell in an industry hit hard by the virus and desperate for workers.
The worker shortage in the industry has become so critical in Florida, some facilities have had to turn new residents away.
“It’s hard when you have a shortage of staff and you need to make sure your residents are cared for,” said Kristen Knapp, communications director for the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), the state’s leading nursing home association.
Knapp said the FHCA supports centers that mandate vaccines for employees but maintained it’s up to each provider to decide.
FHCA is working with facilities to find answers and ease the pressures of staff shortages. Recently, the association was awarded a $1.8 million federal grant aimed at helping nursing homes in Florida hire 3000 certified nursing assistants over the next two years.
Management at La Posada knows they will lose at least a few employees by the end of September, but Cadiere believes the recent wave of COVID-19 cases will also force the industry to transition from giving workers the choice to making it for them.
“We feel it’s the right thing to do. If you look at the statistics of what’s happening right now, it proves it’s the right thing to do, especially in senior living facilities,” he said.