Staff members at Heritage Place nursing facility in Soldotna will now be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine, following a Wednesday announcement by President Joe Biden.
In a press conference at the White House, Biden said nursing home employees working at Medicare- and Medicaid-funded facilities will be required to be vaccinated or the facility will lose funding. More than 130,000 nursing home residents have died of COVID-19 across the country since the beginning of the pandemic, he said.
“Today I’m announcing a new step,” Biden said. “If you work in a nursing home and serve people on Medicare or Medicaid, you will also be required to get vaccinated.”
The president said he’s taking steps on vaccination requirements where he can in order to boost the nation’s fight against the virus.
More than 200 million Americans have now received at least one dose of the vaccines, according to the White House, but about 80 million Americans are eligible but haven’t yet been vaccinated, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Bruce Richards, the external affairs director of Heritage Place and Central Peninsula Hospital, said he’s doing preliminary research to determine the next steps, but it’s clear the nursing facility employees will have to get the jab.
“We’ll have to comply or not get paid,” Richards said, noting that about 94% of Heritage Place’s funding comes from Medicare and Medicaid.
According to the Associated Press, the mandate could take effect as soon as next month.
Richards said not complying with the Biden administration’s new policy and thus losing Medicare and Medicaid funding would mean the end of the nursing facility altogether.
“If that were the case we’d have to close,” he said. “That’s just not an option.”
Richards said the vaccine will now be considered a condition of participation of Medicare and Medicaid funding, which will translate to a condition of employment for Heritage Place employees.
He acknowledged the nursing facility might end up losing staff over the new mandate.
This isn’t the first federal COVID vaccine mandate imposed by the Biden administration. The president has already said federal employees and contractors, medical staff at Veterans Affairs hospitals and some active duty military personnel will have to get the shots or face onerous requirements.
“With this announcement I’m using the power of the federal government as a payer of health care costs to ensure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors,” Biden said.