‘Mass exodus’: Home health care heavily impacted by state vaccine mandates


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate led to roughly 34,000 health care workers either losing their jobs or being put on leave.

This about a 3% workforce reduction. While this number may not seem huge, some health care sectors were saw a greater percentage of workers leave.

Home health care was one of these. 

“There’s just been this mass exodus of staffing,” said John Hunt, the Owner and Operator of Caring Hearts of Rochester.

Caring Hearts of Rochester provides things like transportation, making sure patients are safe, supporting those with cognitive illnesses, and taking individuals to get out of the house, among other things. 

But over the pandemic, Hunt says they have lost 75% of their business due to not having enough staff. And it started way before the vaccine mandate.

“It’s affected the community tremendously and there’s just there’s nobody to care for people,” Hunt said. 

Hunt says some workers have left to provide care for their families or students who were learning at home. Others, didn’t feel safe going into peoples’ homes with the ongoing pandemic. 

Vaccine mandates also have played a role in some leaving. Hunt said he hasn’t lost too many workers personally to the mandate, but he is seeing it affect those who apply to his company. 

“As we’re interviewing people as they’re starting to come back into the workforce, that’s one of the questions we asked, ‘Have you been vaccinated? Or are you willing to become vaccinated?’ And people have said no. And so in that case, that creates a hole in our in our hiring pool,” Hunt said. 

While there is less staff, the need for care continues to grow. Hunt says many people like to age in their own homes or be around loved ones.

“We do field many phone calls in a day. People asking after they’ve called, you know, three or four or 5,6,7 or 8 agencies. And they’ve said ‘Hey, no one has any staff, do you have staff?,’” Hunt said. 

To help with shortages, Caring Hearts has become one of the first in the country to use a new remote medicine adherence called QuPath. 

“What they do is they have a system where they’re using printed electronics on the back of blister packed meds. So we can tell when somebody is not taking their meds, and we can also…it spits out the results of if you know somebody is not taking their meds,” Hunt said. “Basically the meds are shipped out from one of our pharmacies with with whom they work. And then they stick a sticker on the back, it’s printed electronics, and you poke a hole in it. And then if the holes not poked in it to get to your blister pack, then the company is able to tell that they didn’t get their meds.”

Hunt describes it like an Amazon Alexa for medications, reminding people when they are supposed to take their medicine. But if they don’t, it alerts family members or caretakers. 

“It will come back and spit back the data to the family members and to the the people who are involved case managers, the nurses, the, their PCPs, and can kind of give them a gauge of when they’re taking their meds and when they’re not,” Hunt explained. 

Caring Hearts of Rochester has been one of the first in the country to use this machine, which has been helpful with less workers. 

“We can go back and we can find out, you know, what’s the cause of the reason they’re not taking their meds? So as we’ve had this staff shortage, we’ve been able to still be in people’s homes,” Hunt said. “It’s been a really great thing for us so that we can tell when we can’t be in the home because of lack of staffing. 

To also better support workers, Caring Hearts has increased the minimum time for home care workers to work a week to 12 hours.

If you’re looking for at home care, Caring Hearts says they do have staff right now to support new families. 

Their phone number is 585-245-0134. You can also visit their website by clicking here.

Under the vaccine mandate, less than 2% of the workforce at hospitals in New York remains inactive due to not getting vaccinated. For nursing homes, there is less than 3% of the workforce inactive. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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