During his final days in office, former NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all healthcare workers in hospitals and other congregate care settings like ours are mandated to receive a Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. The first round of vaccines need to be distributed to employees at the Lutheran Home and Rehabilitation Center as well as the Hultquist Place Assisted Living Program over the next 3-4 weeks. The Lutheran Senior Housing staff, corporate office personnel, as well as everyone at G.A. Family Services will have separate compliance dates in the coming weeks as well.
This decision was made to help prepare and protect essential healthcare workers as well as the most vulnerable populations across the state from the Delta variant of COVID-19 that continues to spread faster than the previous strain. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, vaccine acceptance has become a political and social point of contention. Misinformation about the vaccine seems to spread even faster than the virus itself, causing many to disregard the benefits the vaccines offer in pursuit of self-interest. Now, healthcare employees are choosing to resign, some leaving healthcare entirely, to pursue other careers instead of accept a COVID-19 vaccine out of fears rooted in that same misinformation I mentioned prior. I’m sad to say that this causing an even greater healthcare staffing issue in our county than what we had already been enduring the last 18 months. We’ve been in contact with leaders from other facilities and are working together to find a staffing solution.
However, due to this critical staffing shortage, we’ve paused all new admissions to LHRC effective immediately. Although other skilled nursing facilities in the area had already made this decision before us, we held out as long as we could because we know the value and importance our skilled nursing and rehabilitation services have to the community around us.
Please know that the residents we’re currently serving in the nursing home remain our first and top priority. That is why we made the decision to move or consolidate resident locations in the building. It will allow us to more efficiently serve the residents we currently have with the staff who remain after the vaccine mandate goes into effect. These actions and others were communicated to officials at the Department of Health who agreed with our decisions. Eventually, our staffing levels will increase which will allow us to provide safe, high-quality care to more people. We will begin accepting new admissions again at that time and you will be notified when we make that decision in the future.
We continue to do everything we can to attract and retain new talent to replace those we will lose, but the world around us is not making it any easier. Please know that this decision is not a negative reflection of our organization or the staff who choose to leave. Everyone is entitled to make healthcare decisions that are right for them, but we stand by our beliefs that the COVID-19 vaccines are our best chance to reduce infection rates and reduce or eliminate the severity of symptoms when breakthrough infections arise.
We thank you for your patience and for trusting that this decision, though difficult to make, is the right one for the time being.
Pamela S. Nordin, RN, LNHA
President and CEO