Texas Nursing Homes Avoid Termination, Fines With Vaccination Mandate End

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Ronald Payne was set to take company-wide time off this week from the chain of nursing homes he runs in Texas, letting anyone on staff leave who had not received at least an injection of the COVID-19 vaccine, as mandated by the federal government.

That could have meant more than 100 people in Southwest LTC Management Services’ 17 Texas nursing homes, he said.

Instead, its facilities, along with most of the state’s other 1,200 nursing homes, were able to continue operating as usual after a federal judge blocked the COVID vaccination warrant last week. -19 from the Biden administration for healthcare workers.

The new rule, announced in August, required that all eligible employees at healthcare facilities who participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs receive at least one dose by Monday. Facilities that fail to comply could face civil fines or lose access to that Medicaid and Medicare funding, which is used by up to 85% of nursing home residents in Texas.

Louisiana judge Terry Doughty’s ruling last week is a temporary stay. But it allows Texas nursing homes that depend on this funding – and most do – to continue pushing for more vaccinations of their employees.

This is essential in a state that lags more than half the country in getting nursing home workers vaccinated. Current figures indicate that Texas could see an exodus of tens of thousands of trained nurses if the warrant goes into effect. In late November, Texas nursing homes reported that about 72% of their employees had received at least one injection, according to state and federal statistics.

“Let’s just say it went into effect this week,” said Payne, CEO of Southwest LTC Management Services. “I would lose 20% of my staff. “

At a time when nursing homes were already experiencing staff shortages, this was an especially frightening prospect.

Texas has responded to the new rule by filing its own lawsuit, with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton calling the mandate “an unprecedented federal vaccine executive” on healthcare workers.

The federal requirement that all healthcare workers be vaccinated came at a time when the nation was in the throes of a record-breaking and deadly COVID-19 delta wave.

More than 72,000 Texans have died from COVID-19, which killed about 10% of nursing home residents across the state in its first year. As of December 1, 1,9644 nursing home residents had died from COVID-19, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Recent surveys by the Texas Health Care Association and LeadingAge Texas, two groups in the Texas nursing home industry, show that state facilities have seen their workforce shrink by 12% in the past year. and that at least a third of those surveyed are turning away new admissions due to understaffing.

On top of all this, the potential for a sudden drop in staffing due to the tenure would be disastrous for some facilities, said Kevin Warren, head of the Texas Health Care Association, the largest group of long-term care facilities. of State.

While some nursing homes report vaccination rates as high as 100%, others have less than half of their staff who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which was what the mandate would have required of employees to. here Monday.

A Harris County nursing home shows that only 35% of its staff have at least one dose, according to the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The facility is limiting visits after it reported on its website last week that two residents have COVID-19, which has also infected some staff.

Over 55% of Texans have been fully immunized.

The first case of the omicron variant in Texas was reported on Monday, and scientists are speculated to be at least as contagious as delta, which is still considered the most potent COVID-19 strain to date.

Long-term care facilities have been trying for a year to convince their employees to get vaccinated, as they care for the population most vulnerable to COVID-19 – the sick and the elderly. They organized on-site clinics and offered incentives like more paid time off and vaccine bonuses.

A few weeks ago, Payne, the CEO of the nursing home chain, said only about 45% of employees at the 22 facilities operated by Southwest in Texas and Oklahoma had received at least one shot of the vaccine. As of Friday, that number had climbed to around 78%, he said.

Statewide, the trend is the same. As of Oct. 1, Texas nursing homes, which employ about 100,000 people statewide, reported an average vaccination rate of 60%. Last week, that number rose to 69%.

“The warrant, or the warrant cloud, I think, has encouraged a lot of people to get vaccinated,” Payne said. “We have had a lot of people vaccinated in the past two weeks. “

The Texas Tribune (texatribune.org.) Is a non-partisan, member-supported newsroom that educates and engages Texans about politics and state politics.


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