RI nursing homes face staffing shortages with vaccine deadline approaching

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The deadline for the state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers is fast approaching, and those who refuse to do so are likely putting their jobs on the line.

The incoming mandate applies to thousands of health care workers in the state, including those who work in nursing homes.

John Gage, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Healthcare Association, tells 12 News while he supports the vaccine, he feels the mandate has put health care workers in an uncomfortable position.

“We started out the pandemic with staffing challenges, 18 months where they were coming to work in the height of the pandemic when vaccines weren’t available,” he said. “PPE was not plentiful and they did heroes work. Now they are tired and this will make it that much more challenging to meet our staffing needs.”

Gage said the R.I. Department of Health recently told him more than 700 of his 10,100 workforce will be impacted by the vaccine mandate.

He tells 12 News there is a 30-day staffing contingency plan that nursing homes can follow if they file for one, which would give them time to get the remaining employees vaccinated.

“They can take advantage of the enforcement strategy the Department of Health came up with and basically tell them what your plan of correction is to become 100% complaint by the end of October,” he said.

Gage said to make up for the employees who won’t be allowed to work, they are going to ask vaccinated workers to pick up extra shifts as well as use temporary and traveling nurses to make up for being short-staffed.

He also said this won’t just impact the health care workers, but also the patients themselves.

“I know buildings that are holding off on admissions or have units that are temporarily closed because they simply can’t get the staff to provide care,” he added.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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