Johnston mom worried her son will lose CNA due to vaccine mandate


JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A Johnston mother whose son relies on home health care is urging Gov. Dan McKee to reconsider his vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Christiana Gondreau tells 12 News her 17-year-old son Dominic, who has cerebral palsy, depends on his CNA to assist him with his daily routine. She said her son’s CNA spends 36 hours a week at their house caring for him.

“Cognitively, he is completely there, he understands everything,” Christiana said. “But in terms of his body, he’s a 24/7 child. He has to be fed and he has to be changed.”

Under McKee’s mandate, all health care workers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. While McKee hasn’t said what consequences unvaccinated health care workers would face if they fail to follow the mandate, health care organizations are concerned it will lead to a flurry of resignations in an already short-staffed industry.

McKee’s mandate will likely impact Dominic directly, according to Christiana, since his current CNA isn’t vaccinated.

Christiana said if their CNA were no longer allowed to care for Dominic, her family would be stranded.

“It could be weeks, months, before we actually find someone who is a good fit,” Christiana explained, adding that Dominic’s CNA has been taking care of him for three years now.

“She’s part of the family,” she continued. “In so many ways, it would really hurt us [if she left].”

McKee doubled down on the requirement during his weekly media briefing Tuesday, stating that he believes all health care workers should be take all the steps necessary to protect not only themselves, but also their patients from the virus.

Nicholas Oliver, the executive director for the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, said current projections indicate that more than 1,000 patients who rely on home health care will be without continuity of care after Sept. 30 due to the mandate.

“Unlike facility-based health care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes, home care providers can’t control their patients’ and clients’ care delivery environment,” Oliver said. “Home care patients and clients have the right to allow unvaccinated persons to visit their homes.”

Christiana couldn’t agree more, especially since her family would be impacted firsthand.

“I feel like it’s our home, we should have the right to decide whether or not someone can or can’t come in,” she said.

Even if she does find a replacement CNA for Dominic quickly, Christiana said it would still take several weeks to train them to meet her son’s needs, and months for the family to feel fully comfortable with having them around.

“To have somebody come into your home and be part of your every day is challenging,” she said.

Christiana said she really wants Dominic’s current CNA to continue caring for him, and she’s hoping the governor is listening.

“This is about a family deciding whether they want to or do not want to allow someone in their home, and allowing health care workers, whether they want to or don’t want to get vaccinated, to make that choice for themselves,” she said.

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