Some fear new vaccine mandate will cause more staffing issues at NJ health care facilities
There is some concern that Gov. Phil Murphy’s new executive order requiring all health care workers to get the COVID-19 booster shot will put more pressure on an industry already stretched to the limits.
Under the governor’s order, health care workers must be vaccinated or will likely lose their job. Weekly testing will no longer be an option for those who do not want to get the vaccine.
“We are no longer going to look past those who continue to put their colleagues, or perhaps, more importantly, those who are their responsibility, in danger of COVID,” Murphy said.
This means that people working in a hospital setting, county jail, prison or nursing home must comply with the vaccine mandate.
“For those in our health care community who remain unvaccinated, you have until Jan. 27 to get your first dose and must complete it by Feb. 28,” Murphy said.
There is a major push for vaccination in nursing homes. Currently, in New Jersey, there are outbreaks in 557 facilities – over 12,000 staffers are ill with the virus.
Nationwide, nursing homes have seen a spike in cases and deaths. Yet, with the help of vaccination and boosters, the rate of deaths is 10 times less compared to December 2020, according to the American Health Care Association.
American Health Care Association president Mark Parkinson says in a statement, “Help support our front-line caregivers and safeguard our most vulnerable by getting vaccinated, boosted and masked.”
But some facilities in New Jersey are against the mandate, fearing a loss in staff if they are forced to get the booster.
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Chelsea Senior Living has facilities in 16 communities in New Jersey. They say 10% to 15% of the staff of 1,100 employees could be affected.
Chelsea Senior Living president Roger Bernier says in a statement, "This mandate, placed on top of the already-stressed labor market in long-term care, is detrimental to our residents. While this presents a challenge with reduced staff, communities such as ours are now scrambling to provide COVID-19 vaccine and booster clinics, giving way to an already taxed health care environment."
Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the union representing 14,000 nurses and medical staffers at hospitals around the state says vaccination isn’t an issue for hospitals.
“Staffing is the issue. Staffing was the issue before the pandemic,” says HPAE president Debbie White. "At a time when workers are leaving the workforce in enormous numbers, I don't know how this helps us at all get staff to the bedside."
President Joe Biden, with the backing of a United States Supreme Court decision, passed mandatory vaccination for health care workers.
Currently, only 48% of New Jersey’s eligible population has a booster shot. Murphy says that this is too low.