OSSIPEE — Gov. Chris Sununu Thursday expressed his concern to the Sun that a presidential vaccine mandate for nursing homes may lead to a staffing crisis.
Meanwhile, nursing homes in Maine are already closing due to a lack of help.
On Aug. 18, the White House announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will develop new regulations for nursing homes to require all their workers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Such regulations would apply to nearly 15,000 nursing home facilities, which employ about 1.6 million workers and serve about 1.3 million nursing home residents.
This comes at a time when staff positions at the nursing home are difficult to fill. At the end of last month, commissioner Matthew Plache (R-Wofeboro) declared that the Biden administration is instituting “medical apartheid.”
The nursing home has about 186 employees, but the facility should have about 195. At the end of last month, Administrator Dee Brown said 51 of Mountain View’s workers in various departments are unvaccinated. She thinks they could lose up to 40 percent of the 51 non-vaccinated employees.
The Sun asked Sununu for comment. In reply, Sununu’s spokesperson, Ben Vihstadt, sent back a statement from the governor.
“In talking with health care facilities across the state, there is definitely cause for concern among nursing home staffing levels,” said Gov. Chris Sununu. “A vaccinated nursing home resident being taken care of by an unvaccinated nurse will be far better off than a vaccinated resident with no nurse to take care of them — and our priority must be on ensuring there are adequate levels of care in place for our loved ones.”
The Sun asked for an update on the situation from the Carroll County commissioners Thursday.
Chairwoman Terry McCarthy (R-Conway) said she believes there are three positive staff cases at the nursing home and one at the jail.
As for the vaccine mandate, Plache said Thursday that he doesn’t believe the state of New Hampshire has seen new rules coming from Washington yet.
“So we don’t we don’t know what it’s going to look like yet,” said Plache of the rules. “Nobody’s able to tell us.”
Plache said counties across the state are looking at the vaccine mandate issue. He’s talked to a couple of people about it, including one from the New Hampshire Association of Counties.
“We’re all concerned about the issue of being able to provide the services to our residents in the nursing homes and that means with the appropriate number of staff said Plache. “This is going to exacerbate that problem.”
Plache said nursing home officials in New Hampshire are looking at curtailing admissions in the event they can’t handle new residents for lack of staff.
“I’m not saying that’s what we are doing,” said Plache. “I’m saying that’s where this could be headed ... we’ll have empty beds because we don’t have enough people to provide the services that we need to provide to actually do what we need to do.”
McCarthy added she read an article stating three Maine nursing homes were closing due to such COVID issues.
News reports say the nursing homes that are closing at the end of next month are in Deere Isle, Whitefield and Bingham.
On Sept. 2, the Mills administration announced today that it will begin enforcement of its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for health-care workers on Oct. 29, providing an additional month for health-care workers to complete their vaccination protocol and for health-care organizations to use $146 million in forthcoming funds to address workforce needs.
The Sun also asked commissioners if it’s possible to use American Rescue Plan funds to help pay stipends to nursing home staff as a means to boost recruitment and retention.
“It is, and we are working on that we’re having open discussions on that with a nursing home actually this afternoon,” said McCarthy.
But Plache said that extra money in stipends won’t help with retention if staff simply flat out refuse to be vaccinated. “The stipend helps us pull people away from other nursing homes and then they have a problem,” said Plache.