Nursing home reacts to President Biden's proposal to fully vaccinate staff or lose funding

The Biden administration will require that nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.

The announcement was made on Wednesday afternoon

"You’re not punishing the staff. You’re not punishing the businesses. You’re punishing the residents because they don’t have a say in this," said Liz Barton, responding to the policy.

Barton has been in the nursing home industry for more than 30 years. If there’s anything she knows, it’s how much they depend on government funding.

So when President Joe Biden announced the move, she predicted what workers would do.

"They’ll either quit before that happens or the funding will be cut and the nursing homes will close. That’s the only obvious two outcomes," said Barton. 

At The Gardens at DePugh in Winter Park, she says 93% of their revenue is Medicare and Medicaid. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, 60% of nursing home staff is fully vaccinated. In Florida, it’s just 45%, the second-lowest vaccination rate in the country for nursing home staff.

"What do you do if you can’t get the rest of your workforce to be vaccinated?" a FOX 35 reporter asked. 

"You tell me," said Rick Baldwin, the president of The Gardens at DePugh’s board.

This summer, they offered $1000 bonuses to workers to get the vaccine. Before the bonuses, 38% were vaccinated. Now they’re at 92%. They haven’t been able to fully close the gap.

 "We take our job of protecting them very seriously. So we’re worried about it. But you got to have enough help here, so it’s a dilemma," said Baldwin.

"You think a lot of nursing homes are going to wind up closing?" a FOX 35 reporter asked.

"Oh absolutely. If 92% of your income is from the federal government and that’s cut off because you can’t get 100% of your staff vaccinated, absolutely. What choice do they have?" said Barton.

Nursing home residents and healthcare workers are also being considered for some of the first booster shots, expected to be available sometime this fall.

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