Hanceville Nursing and Rehab Center leads state in nursing home staff vaccinations

National percentage of vaccinated staff is 60%, average in Alabama is 50%
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 12:58 PM CDT
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HANCEVILLE, Ala. (WBRC) – The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living set a goal in February of having 75% of nursing home workers in the country vaccinated by June 30. One month past that deadline, 15 nursing homes in Alabama have reached that goal, according to data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Of the 228 facilities reporting data to CMS, 114 have at least half of their staff vaccinated. Hanceville Nursing and Rehab Center is at the top of the list.

“Today we are 205 days without COVID in this building,” said Donna Guthrie, Administrator, Hanceville Nursing and Rehab Center.

She adds, “It’s a great thing. I wish everyone would get [vaccinated]. We would be so much better off.”

Guthrie made the decision to require her staff to get vaccinated in late November, even before the vaccine was available. For her, there was no other option.

“We wanted to put our patients first. That’s what we wanted to do,” said Guthrie.

More than 2,400 people living in long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, according the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). Thousands more were infected, forcing facilities like Hanceville Nursing and Rehab Center to lockdown for months.

“Before the vaccine, I’ll be honest, I was scared to death. We were scared. We were worried about each new, every time someone went to the hospital, what were they bringing back? Every time an employee has a sneeze, we worried about it,” said Guthrie.

“[The vaccine] has freed us of that.”

“If you had to live through the pandemic in a nursing home, and see our residents go without seeing their families at the time where COVID was really out there, the staff here were really great to be the family for them but you really didn’t realize how impacted the residents were until we were able to let them come in, because of the vaccines, we were able to let the families visit, and see them and touch them, and to see their tears, it was really impactful so to me,” said Renea Standridge, Director of Nursing, Hanceville Nursing and Rehab Center.

Standridge and Guthrie said they had no hesitation to get the vaccine, but said there were some employees who needed more time to make a decision.

“I talked to many employees one-on-one, just bringing them in the office, sitting down with a glass of tea and saying, ‘What’s wrong? Tell my why you don’t want to do this.’ And pretty much all the cases we had one-on-one with, they left feeling better about getting the vaccine and went ahead and did it,” said Guthrie.

Guthrie said they invited doctors to speak with the staff about the vaccine, and made people available to answer their questions.

“We brought doctors in, they had large meetings, we went one-on-one with our employees to try to explain, and to understand where they were coming from. What was their core reason for not getting a vaccine? And we were able to debunk and tell them that it was a good thing, that it was for our patients’ best interest, they pay to be here. So, we should take care of ourselves so we don’t bring them a disease that they’ll die from.”

Guthrie said in the end, they lost a few employees because they were unwilling to get the vaccine, but she added, “I think [those] that we lost were looking for a reason to quit.”

Fair Haven in Birmingham isn’t mandating current employees to get vaccinated, but will require new hires to be vaccinated within 30 days of employment. This decision comes as just more than 50% of their staff is vaccinated. A spokesperson said Fair Haven continues to provide access to and education about the vaccine, and is incentivizing workers to get vaccinated by giving them their birthday off without having to use Paid Time Off (PTO).

More than half of the staff at Brookdale Senior Living in Birmingham were vaccinated when leadership implemented a vaccination mandate.

An AARP analysis of CMS data shows 60% of nursing home workers nationwide are vaccinated. It’s now calling on facilities to mandate the vaccine.

“With the Delta variant surging rapidly across the state, AARP Alabama is calling on nursing homes to require vaccinations for staff, residents and visitors. The most recent data from CMS for the four weeks ending July 18, 2021, shows nursing home staff in Alabama at just 50% fully vaccinated. The low levels of staff vaccinations in particular creates an unacceptable level of risk, since the disease spreads so easily in these environments. Facilities must also ensure all residents are vaccinated, including providing vaccines to newly admitted residents. Facilities must be open and transparent with how they are progressing toward the vital goal of vaccination for all staff and residents. And they must also be transparent with reporting infections and vaccination rates to residents and their families. As the new variants are emerging, facilities cannot let preventable problems be repeated. The key is to increase vaccinations, and do it now,” said Jamie Harding, Communications Director, AARP Alabama.

The 15 nursing homes in Alabama with at least 75% of their staff vaccinated include: Hanceville Nursing and Rehab Center in Hanceville, Selma Health and Rehab in Selma, Ridgeview Health Services in Jasper, Moundville Health and Rehabilitation in Moundville, Arbor Springs Health and Rehab Center in Opelika, Fairhope Health and Rehab in Fairhope, Montgomery Health and Rehab in Montgomery, Camden Nursing Facility in Camden, Adams Nursing Home in Alexander City, El Reposo Nursing Facility on Florence, Baron House of Hueytown in Hueytown, Orchard Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Hayneville, Cherry Hill Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Birmingham, Fairview at Redstone Village in Huntsville, Sanctuary at the Woodlands in Cullman.

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