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How a vaccine mandate could exacerbate the shortage of home care assistants

How a vaccine mandate could exacerbate the shortage of home care assistants
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How a vaccine mandate could exacerbate the shortage of home care assistants

How a vaccine mandate could exacerbate the shortage of home care assistants

JASA, an organization that serves older adults in New York City, said that after all efforts by the agency, its staff members rushed to get vaccinated this week. Of its 660 home health aides, some 94 percent are now vaccinated, up from 20 percent who submitted proof by August, said the organization’s director, Katherine Haslanger. Five people resigned over the mandate.

This week’s vaccine deadline covers certified home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, hospices and adult care facilities, set by the Department of Health in an Aug. 26 emergency regulation.

As per the hospital order, limited medical exemption is allowed. The regulation does not allow for religious exemptions, but workers whose employers have approved their religious exemptions may be allowed to work now while the issue is challenged in court.

Despite the work done to care for high-risk patients, the state’s hundreds of thousands of home health care workers have largely remained out of the limelight during the pandemic. For example, home health workers were not initially included in New York’s top priority category for vaccination, although after lobbying efforts, they were added.

Most home health aides — the bulk of the home health work force — make close to the state minimum wage of $15 an hour. The home health care system, largely funded by Medicare and Medicaid, also relies on a small number of nurses to help care for homebound patients. Agencies also hire therapists and social workers.

Already facing an industrywide staffing shortage, agencies have begun implementing emergency staffing plans, including limiting new admissions, overburdening family members of home care recipients, and authorizing overtime. Including to say. The Visiting Nurse Service is asking to comply with the mandate by the end of the year.

Assembly member Richard Gottfried, who chairs the health committee, said in an interview that “a slight delay may be well understood,” given the ongoing staffing crisis in home care. He also suggested that the state use federal funds to offer increased pay and overtime incentives to help hire and retain home health aides.

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