The Biden Administration is working to require COVID-19 vaccinations among America’s nursing home workers.

In Missouri, about 50% of nursing home employees have been vaccinated – one of the lowest rates in the country, according to federal data.

Missouri Capitol (Photo courtesy of Gov. Parson’s Flickr page)

Nikki Strong is with the Missouri Health Care Association, which represents more than 65% of the state’s 500 nursing homes. During a Missouri House subcommittee hearing, Strong said her association surveyed members about the impact the mandate could have on them. She said a mandate would lead to a significant number of employees quitting – and likely causing some facilities to close.

“There’s not a single facility that I’m aware of that could lose 50% of their staff. There’s not a single facility that I’m aware of that could lose 25% of their staff. If you look at that and you add those percentages together, 63% of the facilities in this state would be looking at next options and the only next option that I know of would be closure if they don’t have staff to be able to care for them,” said Strong.

Strong said Missouri’s largest nursing home operator would be forced to close 27 facilities.

“These are facilities all across the state,” she said. “These are not facilities in St. Louis only or Kansas City only. These are facilities in rural and urban areas. This would be 1,404 residents in those 27 facilities,” said Strong.

According to Strong, the state’s nursing homes had major staff shortages before the pandemic began and they have worsened since COVID-19 came on the scene.

“Everyone should be vaccinated but I don’t believe a straight out mandate like this is beneficial for the care or for the health care system as a whole in the state of Missouri. We have got to have health care workers and we are dangling by a thread right now having enough health care workers,” she said.

Strong said 85% of residents in long-term care facilities across the state are vaccinated and the businesses take other virus-related safety measures.

Representative Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, pushed back on many of Strong’s comments.

“I’m just frustrated because it seems like a commonsense thing that if you’re working in one of these places where you have such a high risk of people dying, we should be expecting people to be vaccinated from this,” Merideth said.

He said nursing homes have been dealing with chronic staffing problems due to low pay. Merideth said the mandate might be the last straw for some of them.

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