BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “It couldn't come at a worse time,” declared Thomas Ess, vice president of emergency management, safety and security, People Inc.
As of Thursday another state COVID-19 vaccine mandate is in effect. This time for home health care and Hospice workers.
All those workers must now be vaccinated to remain on the job.
People has a small home health care division. But Ess says he’s thankful all 24 of those home health care employees complied with the COVID vaccine mandate and remain on the job to serve clients with developmental disabilities.
“We didn't have to necessarily bring anyone to the point where we said ‘you have to do this or not’ with the exception of one person that we are working with,” remarked Ess.
There are more than 1,500 home health care agencies across the state and there is a major concern this vaccine mandate will force out hundreds of workers.
A recent survey by the Home Care Association of New York State found nearly 900 home care nurses say they would voluntarily resign under this new vaccine mandate.
“The approach on the implementation on the mandate is a cliff — you either are immunized today and able to provide the services, or if you're not you're essentially fired and disqualified as a service provided,” stated Al Cardillo, president & CEO, Home Care Association of NYS.
“How many are complying with this and what are your concerns?" Buckley asked.
“What we have seen and what is really a concern for us is the fact that the gap that continues to exist in the system is very significant both on the nursing side and the home health aid side and with other professionals that provide these services,” replied Cardillo.
Cardillo tells me they anticipate over 10,000 home health care aides are projected to leave under the mandate.
“If you lose 20, 30, 40-percent of your workforce — it's not like there's something that instantly replaces those workers,” Cardillo said.
And for an agency, like People, that relies on government funding it's even harder.
“I often say we can't make a better bagel — we can't make a better cheeseburger — we're working with what we have,” replied Ess.
Ess says they are now waiting for the other shoe to drop to see if the mandate will be required for services of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities that could affect group homes.
"People Incorporated supports people being vaccinated. We want to see that happen, but we have to face the reality of a pretty significant staffing crisis right now where you know we don't have the traditional mechanism like a hospital system would bring in back ups. It's not part of our industry," Ess said.