Vaccine mandates a “game changer”: the CEO of the Good Samaritan – News
After a resurgence of COVID-19 cases among staff and residents of its senior living and care communities over the summer, and rumors of another variant on the horizon, the Evangelical Lutheran Society of good samaritan knew it was time to act.
COVID-19 vaccination rates at the time were lagging behind, President and CEO Nate Schema recalled, speaking at a LeadingAge membership meeting on Wednesday.
As the nation’s largest nonprofit elderly care and service provider, it had 1,000 positive COVID-19 cases daily among its more than 12,000 staff members, and just as many on the resident side.
Schema said it was July 16 when the provider based on Sioux Falls identification said that was enough and decided it would not revert to the early days of the pandemic.
“We have drawn a hard line in the sand. We want to be one of the safest places to work and live, ”said Schema. That’s when the company, with facilities in 22 states, decided not to back down, but to move forward with a mandate to vaccinate staff.
Conditions were announced in July, giving staff until November 1 to be fully immunized. Good Sam has had a few enthusiastic early adopters, including a handful of communities that have achieved vaccination rates of over 90 within weeks.
Good Sam leaders used town halls, senior leadership tours, websites and one-on-one conversations to overcome barriers to immunizing some staff
“Having a tool like the vaccine was our solution, our way forward,” Schema said, adding that he had seen a 96% reduction in coronavirus cases in his buildings after the mandate was announced. “It completely changed the game. “
The mandate has also become a marketing tool, particularly for its retirement homes and assisted living facilities, where potential residents were initially reluctant to move to a facility that might impose visitation restrictions. With a current staff vaccination rate exceeding 95%, he said families have more than anything welcomed the staff vaccination mandate in the past two months.
Schema said the company approved exemptions – mostly religious – to around 10% of its staff. To accommodate these employees, he said the buildings strengthen infection control protocols and carefully examine employees before each shift.
Good Sam has put about 2% of its employees on leave – mostly seasonal workers and PRNs – who have refused vaccination, although he said many workers returned to their communities after the vaccination mandates were announced. of the government.
He said Good Sam was “all in” when it came to immunization, indicating that the company was committed to having an annual immunization process.
The challenges of the workforce
With workforce challenges ahead of the pandemic, Schema said he sees vaccine mandates and workforce shortages as two separate issues.
Wage wars, he said, are a bigger issue, calling bonuses and incentives a mixed bag. He said workers, especially in the upper Midwest, play the system by taking a login bonus in one community and then jumping to another location for another bonus.
To combat this, Schema said, Good Sam is considering retention bonuses and getting creative by pumping extra dollars into wages over time if workers stay.
“We have to do things differently as an industry,” he said. “We have to continue to really adapt if we are to be able to compete for people with available jobs right now.”