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Four years after Glenn Lane launched Mamaroneck, NY-based Westchester Family Care, the inconceivable happened: a global pandemic struck. The former banker turned home care company president was accustomed to handling crises. But this crisis had the potential of exacting a human toll, as well as a financial one.
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Westchester Family Health is thriving. The firm offers a variety of services, including assistance with daily living, transportation and medication management to patients living in a handful of counties north of New York City. It also has plans to expand into Connecticut.
So far, only a few clients have contracted the coronavirus, and Lane estimates approximately 90% of the company’s workers and clients have been vaccinated. To encourage vaccination, the company offered employees paid-time-off beyond the state requirement.
As the Delta variant spikes nationwide, Lane talked to McKnight’s Home Care Daily about continued vaccine hesitancy and a new mandate requiring unvaccinated workers in New York City-run hospitals to undergo mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing. This interview has been condensed due to time considerations.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Are you still encouraging those unvaccinated patients to get the vaccine?
Glenn Lane: We have a couple of clients that I know are holding out and their families are really trying to get them to take it. But any of our clients that are in facilities — and we do have clients who are in independent and assisted living facilities — were required to get the vaccine. So I only know of one or two who have not gotten it and the families are actively trying to get them to take it, especially with the Delta variant.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: On the flip side, how hard has it been getting the remaining staff to get vaccinated?
Glenn Lane: It’s harder with the staff than with the clients. I think right now we’re at about 90%, so we’re higher than the norm. We’ve done a lot of education. We’re not requiring it, per se, but some facilities that we’re working in do require their workers to have it. We’re tracking who has it and who doesn’t. We have team consent from staff to share their status. There are so many odd regulations that come into play here, between OSHA and some of the HIPAA requirements, it’s hard to ask and hard to share. But we’ve asked for consent and received it from the staff that we can share their status.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Why aren’t some staff getting vaccinated?
Glenn Lane: I think there are various reasons. We have done a lot of education both through email and online presentations. We have done face-to-face training via Zoom. When it comes down to it, I think the No. 1 reason is it is still largely a female workforce and the biggest resistance is among the females who may be worried about impacts on fertility.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Why not just adopt a mandatory vaccination policy?
Glenn Lane: That’s an interesting question and I’ve debated about it. We have the same issue with the flu vaccine each year. From a COVID perspective, we are allowed to require it. We have to have exemptions for religious reasons or for whatever valid reasons may be out there. The issue that we have out there is a tremendous shortage in the workforce. So I have a concern that if I mandated it, it would put more pressure on our ability to staff cases and to find workers. But it is something that I do have in the back of my mind. But right now, I’d rather they do it voluntarily.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: On Wednesday, New York City began mandating weekly testing of unvaccinated workers at city-run hospitals. What’s your take on that?
Glenn Lane: We typically aren’t testing if it’s not required where we are working. We always try to incent, but I think in the end it has to be their choice with as much education and incenting as we can provide. There may come a point where I mandate it, but I’m just not quite there yet.
This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living