Recently, Maine issued a vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers in the state, warning that those who fail to comply risk losing their job. The vaccine mandate has only increased worries among behavioural health agencies and paramedics as staffing shortages continue.
As defined in the mandate, healthcare workers are classed as any individuals who are employed by a hospital, multilevel healthcare facility, home health agency, nursing facility, residential care facility and intellectual disabilities licensed by the State of Mane.
Maine Governor Janet Mills said that her mandate will require all health workers to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by the 1st of October and was imposed to guard against staff shortages ensure patient safety.
However, the risk of having a shortage of workers is higher as many are already contemplating quitting.
In Maine and a number of other states in the US, there has reportedly been a spike of Covid-19 cases due to the delta variant. Gov. Mills’ vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is one of the strongest, offering no apparent alternative to inoculation. This news comes as the Biden administration recently said that nursing homes will lose critical federal funding if they do not make the Covid jabs compulsory for staff.
It currently remains unclear how many will leave the workforce due to the mandate and opposition has been vocal. In Portland, Bangor and Augusta, healthcare workers and politicians who opposed the mandate have rallied together.
OHI Maine, which is based in Bangor, had 82 job openings across 380 positions. The agency providing support and care services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism has had to close four group homes due to a shortage of staff. Some staff members are also almost living in the homes to care for their patients with complex needs.
In the US, Maine is reported to have one of the highest vaccination rates and healthcare workers are largely vaccinated. In hospitals, more than 80 percent were fully vaccinated as of July 31st. The rates in nursing homes and intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities were considerably lower at 73 percent and 68 percent, respectively.
Maine Health, the state’s largest healthcare provider based in Portland, has seen no turnover yet due to the vaccine. At Northern Light in Brewer, a spokesperson said that a number of employees have tendered their resignations as they chose not to be vaccinated.
Paul Bolin, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Northern Light Health, said:” We’re trying to provide as much support and education and information to respond to questions that employees might have to minimise any folks who feel that they need to leave healthcare as a profession.”
Healthcare workers have their own reasons for refusing the vaccine. Elizabeth Mink, a nursing assistant from Warren, said that she felt that the Covid-19 vaccines have been developed too quickly.
Brianna Jipson, a Bangor-area nurse who works at a hospital near Augusta, said that she would rather be fired than get vaccinated. She said that a lot of workers are angry about the vaccine mandate.
Another healthcare worker said that everyone should have a choice over whether they choose to get the vaccine or not and that no one should be forced to get anything they are not comfortable with.
Emily Nixon, a protest organiser who led a group of around 300 outside Maine Medical Centre in Portland, told a crowd: “We are not anti-anything. We support the right to vaccinate. We support the right to choose.”
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