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AHHC of NC Releases Updated Statement on Required COVID-19 Vaccine for In-Home and Hospice Care Employees

 

RALEIGH, NC, SEPTEMBER 20, 2021 - On July 30, 2021 the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina issued a statement regarding consistent COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements for in home and hospice care employees and caregivers.

Tim Rogers, President and CEO of AHHC of NC, stated at that time “Since the beginning of last year, AHHC has worked collaboratively with our healthcare partners in the private sector and the public sector—on the federal, state, and local levels—as we have dealt with this unprecedented public health crisis. AHHC’s in-home and hospice care members have worked tirelessly to provide needed care in people’s homes and facilities as well as compassionate end of life care - with the understanding of the vital role we play in the health care ecosystem. Because of the bravery and steadfastness of our employees and caregivers providing exceptional care, we have been able to keep tens of thousands of North Carolinians out of congregate care settings where the risk of community spread was greater. This work has always been done with an eye towards the greater public health and a recognition of how our members’ decisions impact the communities in which they serve.”

The pandemic has continued to evolve and so has the work of AHHC to support our members, patients, families, and communities with the impact of COVID-19.  As an Association of frontline health care providers, we have closely monitored the continuing increase of COVID-19 positive cases and the highly contagious Delta Variant spread in North Carolina. We have been carefully following the impacts that this fourth surge has had on our hospital systems, our health care providers, patients, and their loved ones. We believe that to provide exceptional health care we must protect the health and well-being of those who support patients across our state. These front-line heroes include health care employees, caregivers, volunteers, and families in all settings-including in-home care, home health, hospice, community-based palliative care, private pay, and behavioral health. To model health and well-being, we believe it is imperative that we urge and require all providers of health care to be vaccinated against and/or regularly tested for COVID-19, while acknowledging the need for consistent exemptions for medical and religious reasons. Our vaccine position is based on the recommendations of both the CDC and CMS, who have provided clear guidance on the administration of vaccines as recommended by the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) and the FDA. Now is not the time for a position of neutrality given the significance of this pandemic and public health crisis.

Recently, President Joseph Biden announced his national plan to guide us out of the pandemic. This sweeping proposal recognizes, as we have, that the Delta variant has had a significant impact on our nation. Our hospitals, medical professionals, and healthcare system is being strained by new cases of COVD-19. His plan includes a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for over 17 million healthcare workers in most health care settings that are reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid. In the President’s statement, he acknowledged the incredible work of our healthcare heroes. This plan aims to protect the wellbeing of the patient and the provider.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. In late August, Moderna completed their submission for full FDA approval for their vaccine. These actions by the FDA should provide greater certainty around coronavirus vaccines for all Americans. Along with these developments, the Biden administration, and the Centers for Medicaid/Medicare (CMS) with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have announced the development of a national requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated who work in long term care facilities.

We believe that this requirement should be extended to all healthcare providers to optimize public health and safety for everyone and especially our most vulnerable senior and/or disabled populations. We encourage CMS and the CDC to create a clear timeline for implementation and we encourage the Biden administration to ensure that there is additional funding for providers through the Provider Relief Fund to administer testing.

“We recognize the concerns that many healthcare providers have brought to our Association regarding a vaccine mandate and how this could negatively impact staffing. A health care workforce shortage existed before COVID-19 and unfortunately is continuing.  We also recognize that without a uniform mandate, we will compound and continue to experience pervasive staffing concerns in the long term.  This is not an easy position to take but we believe it is the right one if we are truly a leader in health care and support sound public health policy. One of the top priorities of the Association is the health, safety, & wellbeing of front-line employees serving in home care, home health, hospice & palliative care. With a consistent and clear position and policy, coupled with open dialogue on the facts about the vaccine, we will provide a pathway to strengthen public trust in the healthcare system and help stabilize our staffing over the long term,” Rogers said.

“We understand that there are many perspectives on this issue. However, first and foremost, the Association seeks to advocate for the protection and safety of patients receiving care in their homes and our communities. This position drives our efforts to ensure those providing direct care and support to our state’s most vulnerable residents are vaccinated, both to protect themselves and those they serve,” said Dr. Michael Lalor, Vice Chair of the AHHC Board of Directors and Chief Medical Officer of Trellis Supportive Care.

“Mandating vaccines is one of many approaches supported by the AHHC Board of Directors in combating COVID-19. In addition, we acknowledge that there are myths to be dispelled and fears to be overcome about the vaccine, particularly when it comes to minorities in our workforce. We are committed to establishing effective messaging and solutions to educate frontline home care & hospice staff on the importance of being vaccinated,” said Dr. Beth Hodges, AHHC Board Member, Medical Director, Health Team Advantage, and Primary Care Medical Director for Triad HealthCare Network.

AHHC believes it is important to support our members with this critical issue by providing open forums, resources, and technical assistance. In the coming weeks we will be working with stakeholders to develop a tool kit on COVID-19 vaccines that acknowledges the cultural communication needs of our workforce. AHHC also plans to partner with other national and state organizations to offer support and incentives to encourage vaccinations to our agency members. We look forward to this dialogue and to continuing to serve as an association focused on best-practice, collaborative health care leadership, education, and advocacy.

The Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina is a non-profit trade association representing providers of home health care, hospice care, palliative care, personal care, private duty nursing, and companion sitter services. 

Member agencies provide services across all 100 North Carolina counties, employ more than 100,000 individuals, and provide services to more than 400,000 individuals annually.  AHHC of NC is one of the oldest and largest state associations of its kind in the United States, celebrating its 50th year in 2022.

Tim Rogers, President and CEO of AHHC of NC, is celebrating his 20th year with AHHC and has 29 years of experience in the home care, home health, and hospice industry.

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Contact:
Courtney Penn, MBA
VP of Marketing, Communications & Events
[email protected] 

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