As mentioned in previous communications, NYS officials announced in August that all healthcare workers in hospitals and other congregate care settings like ours were going to be mandated to receive a Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine with deadlines TBD based on level of care. The deadline for the Lutheran Home and Rehabilitation Center (LHRC) begins September 27. All LHRC staff must begin the vaccination process prior to that date if they are not already fully vaccinated or else their employment must be terminated. Though we had already been facing a staffing crisis prior, this mandate has made the situation worse for us and many other similar healthcare facilities. We’ve been in contact with leaders from other healthcare facilities as well as the Department of Health and are working together to find a staffing solution.
Although the nursing home has had an average vaccine acceptance rate compared to others in our industry, some individuals are choosing to leave our organization (and/or healthcare in general) as a result of the mandate. This is their choice, but it is important for you to know all that the things we’re doing to fill in those gaps, which includes:
- Aggressively interview, hire, and train of new staff
- Scheduling vaccine time slots for those choosing to stay
- Sharing our story and struggles with local media
- Freezing new admissions to focus all our efforts on existing residents
- Consolidating residents/rooms to make care delivery more efficient
- Redeploying ancillary staff and office personnel to help on units
- Raising wages and sign-on incentives
We’ve implemented these recruitment and retention strategies (and others) to address our staffing concerns as well as make sure that our quality of care standards continue to be met as they always have. In regards to quality of care as well as safety, we’ve had to make some changes to our visitation policy effective immediately.
Due to rising COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations in the county, we must require mask use by all guests to the facility regardless of vaccination status. Though we expect this to be temporary, it is being strictly enforced to make sure we reduce all of our potential exposure risks. To go along with this, consumption of food and beverages during visits is also not allowed at this time. These are not changes that we want to make; they’re changes we have to make either from an infection control standpoint or as a state Department of Health requirement.
We know that our residents and families are frustrated. We know that the last year and a half has not been easy. The term “unprecedented” has nearly lost its meaning because it pertains to something new we face every single day we come to work. However, these frustrations are absolutely no excuse to treat the staff on our campus with the amount of disrespect, resentment, and hateful comments that they are receiving during visitation, over the phone, and now through contacts on social media and it will no longer be tolerated.
The staff who work at Lutheran, especially those who willingly received a COVID-19 vaccine, continue to show up to work every day, and even pick up extra duties and shifts to care for the residents on our campus deserve praise and gratitude. They’re being asked to move mountains at a time when others in are choosing to stay home and they’re doing difficult work and facing challenges that they too are frustrated with… and we expect their work to be respected.
We’ve been given the authority to suspend someone’s visitation rights to our facility if we feel a line has crossed and we will exercise this right going forward. Please help us and our staff in this challenge; you are valued members of our care delivery team and we rely on you to help us keep our residents calm, resilient, and strong. Inciting fear, getting residents riled up, and causing more stress helps no one.
As we’ve stated many times before, we don’t always have the answers to the questions you come up with but it doesn’t mean that answers do not exist. Our staff will always do the best they can to inform you of what is going on or find the answers you seek, but there are times when information makes it to us at the same time it makes its way to you. We are often trying to process new regulatory information as our phone begins to ring off the hook because people have questions about the same information and what it means for them. We will help you and give you everything we know, when we know it.
We thank you for your patience and for trusting that our decisions, though difficult to make, are the right ones for the time being.
LHRC Residents Tested for COVID-19 – See Below*
LHRC Residents Currently Testing Positive for COVID-19 – 0
Former COVID-19 Positive LHRC Residents Recovered – 12
Employees Tested Weekly for COVID-19 (State Mandated) – See Below**
LHRC Employees Currently Testing Positive for COVID-19 – 3
Former COVID-19 Positive LHRC Employees Recovered – 34
*as needed under active, suspected, or investigated COVID-19 outbreak situations, does not count resident or representative declinations.
**only staff who are non-vaccinated or who are not yet fully vaccinated are required to test for COVID-19 weekly.
For COVID-19 status updates on the Lutheran Campus, call our 24/7 hotline at any time: 716-720-9715.
Pamela S. Nordin, RN, LNHA
President and CEO