700 nursing home staff could lose their job as October vaccination deadline approaches

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – More than 700 nursing staff workers could be without a job as the statewide October 1st healthcare vaccine mandate approaches.

That’s according to the President of the Rhode Island Healthcare association. John Gage says that represents 7% of the workforce, which is a huge hit for nursing homes.

“We’ve been through this pandemic for 18 months. Everyone’s already tired and everyone’s already at wits-end,” Gage said. “Asking them to take on more is a bigger challenge.”

Gage says nursing homes already lost 1,000 people since the pandemic hit and this could lead to a massive staffing shortage in the coming future.

“It’s a huge hit. We’re facing a staffing mandate that’s coming up in January where we have to provide a certain number of direct care hours per patient, per day. 3.58 to be exact and people can’t get staff,” Gage said.

Gage says he supports vaccinations. Since the shot became available, they’ve seen a 90-95% reduction in nursing home cases. However, what he doesn’t support is the deadline, quickly approaching and unforgiving.

“The date was set very close to when it was announced,” Gage said. “It was about a 6-week period to get 100% of our staff vaccinated or else they can’t cross our threshold.”

According to Gage, 700 people in the nursing home workforce will lose their positions. 500 of those are clinical staff and 200 are ancillary staff.

“A lot of our members are using over time. They’re using bonuses to incentivize people to work extra. They’re bringing in outside agency staff. Others are bringing in traveling nurses from other states. Basically doing everything we can.”

On top of that, there’s confusion as the Governor and Department of Health released what they call a “30-day compliance threshold”. Gage says it is not an extension, but rather a 30-day period for facilities to get a plan in place to reach a 100% vaccination rate.

He says he’s still not sure what that means for his workers come October 1st and that there is still so much up in the air.

“I would hope the last holdouts obviously roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. They can get a Johnson and Johnson vaccine on September 30th and be in full compliance of October 1st. That’s a one and done shot,” Gage said. “Hopefully that happens. This is their livelihood, these are individuals that have worked hard to achieve their licensure that have done heroes work for 18 months. I don’t want to see anyone lose their position.”

Categories: News, Pawtucket, Regional News, Rhode Island