GOP Congressman says vaccine mandate could create new issues in understaffed nursing homes


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAV) — If you sail the high seas, as a member of the U.S. Navy, you are under orders to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Now, the commander in chief has a new order for civilians: If you operate a nursing home, your employees must get the vaccine, or you face the loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding.

“I’m using the power of the federal government as a payer of health care costs to ensure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors,” said Biden in a hastily-called news conference Wednesday.

Most providers in Virginia have not mandated vaccinations. Republican Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Va.) says Biden’s plan could take nursing homes off course.

FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 file photo, nursing home residents wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at Harlem Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. The Justice Department says it’s decided against opening up any civil rights investigations against government-run nursing homes in New York over their COVID-19 response, in a letter to members of U.S. Congress, Friday, July 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

In a statement, Wittman wrote: “Protecting those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 is always of paramount importance. However, a big government, top-down vaccine mandate may actually create new issues. There is already an existing shortage of caregivers for nursing homes. Should we begin to force more caregivers out, then seniors may suffer neglect at understaffed nursing homes. The better solution would be to allow state and local leaders to craft policies tailored to individual localities which ensure seniors are both protected and receive -at the very least- adequate care.”  

Congressman Robert Wittman

Riverside Health, which operates four nursing homes, is working on a plan that goes beyond the president’s directive.

Jesse Goodrich, vice president of Human Resources, in a statement told 10 On Your Side:

“Our biggest priority continues to be the safety and health of our team, our patients and nursing home residents, and our community. As spikes from the Delta variant continue, our leadership team is already weighing the options of vaccination requirements for all team members, which would go beyond the President’s directive. As we finalize our decision, we continue to provide education and access for team members and the community so they can obtain the vaccine, and we strongly encourage all team and community members who have not yet received the vaccine to do so.”

Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital President and CEO Thomas J. Orsini said the facility will be putting a plan in place once the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services releases guidance.

“Lake Taylor will be implementing a plan once the CMS guidance is released. We currently have approximately 60% of total staff vaccinated, which is comparable to the national average and includes employees without direct patient contact. In the meantime, we will continue to educate and encourage all our employees to get the vaccine and provide accessibility to the vaccine at the hospital.”

WAVY-TV has reached out to all major health systems in Hampton Roads to determine whether they are preparing to change vaccination policies for all employees and not just those who work in nursing homes.
Governor Ralph Northam has stopped short of mandates for health care workers.

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