Health

Abbott vaccine mandate ban creating confusion for short-staffed nursing homes

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning all vaccine mandates is creating confusion for some already short-staffed nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state.

The governor’s order, announced Monday, directly contradicts President Joe Biden’s planned orders to require all nursing home employees to be vaccinated for a facility to receive federal funding.

“There’s a lot of confusion and a lot of concern among our members,” said George Linial, president and CEO of Leading Age Texas, which advocates for not-for-profit retirement housing and nursing home communities.

“There’s just a lot of uncertainty in the air,” he told KXAN, adding he feels vaccine requirements should be left up to individual facilities as they assess the risks to their elderly residents.

Late last month, Leading Age Texas and the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) released the results of a survey that included responses from 120 organizations representing 210 nursing homes and 33 assisted living facilities.

The survey found long-term care communities saw a 12% decline in employment since the start of the pandemic, and 30% are limiting new admissions due to staffing shortages.

“I think the nation is still confused to some degree. Certainly, I think we’re going to see a lot of litigation,” said Lori Porter, cofounder and CEO of National Association of Health Care Assistants.

Porter added some nursing homes afraid of losing unvaccinated employees may actually be breathing a sigh of relief following the governor’s order, though it will all come down to funding.

“What they will have confusion about is since Medicare is a federal program, will they lose their funding from the federal government,” Porter said. “Because no nursing home can survive on Medicaid funds alone.”

It remains unclear by when nursing home staff would need to be vaccinated under the Biden administration’s order. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is set to take public comment this month.

Written by Daniel Marin

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