Nursing homes lag on staff vaccinations

By Tammara Fogle | February 25, 2022

The Active Age

With less than a month to go, it appears unlikely that some area nursing homes will meet the federal government’s March 15 deadline for having all healthcare workers fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, only four nursing homes in Sedgwick and Butler counties had achieved a 100% vaccination rate for their staffs by Feb. 10. They were Via Christi Village McClean, Via Christi Villa Ridge in Wichita, Derby Health & Rehabilitation and El Dorado Care and Rehab. No homes in Harvey County reported that all employees were vaccinated.

At the other end of the spectrum were six homes reporting less than 60 percent staff vaccinations: Clearwater Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Family Health & Rehabilitation Center, Meridian Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, Mount Hope Nursing Center, Orchard Gardens Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, and Wheat State Manor.

In August, President Biden announced that nursing home staffs would have to be fully vaccinated to receive Medicaid and Medicare funding. The mandate was delayed as Kansas and other states filed lawsuits to block it, but in January the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could enforce the requirement.

Under the CMS mandate, nursing home workers were to have received at least one dose of the vaccine by Feb. 14.

Nursing home industry representatives have said that the mandate could force some homes to close since they are heavily dependent on that funding, and others could be forced to fire employees at a time of staffing shortages.

The CMS mandate allows for some leeway in enforcement, including medical and religious exemptions. Nursing homes with at least 80 percent compliance will not face enforcement action if they have plans to achieve 100% compliance within 60 days and will have another month to do so if they reach 90 percent.

Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, which advocates for nursing home residents, said the mandate “makes sense in terms of the vulnerability of residents.”

“What I can tell you has been successful in Kansas, Missouri and other states is hosting an on-site vaccination,” she said. “That means one day you could have 30 percent (vaccinations) and the next day you could have 100 percent.”

Nuring home vaccination rates

This chart shows the percentage of completed COVID-19 vaccinations among residents and staff at area nursing homes