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CNY Hospice Meets Vaccine Mandate Deadline, But Struggles From Under-Staffing

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A Central New York health organization has managed this week’s vaccination deadline but is facing other struggles in providing care.

The Hospice of Central New York got an early jump in educating their employees about vaccines through their medical director and CEO, Cindy Chandler.

Chandler said that educating her employees about vaccines gave them a jump on Thursday’s state deadline for visiting health aides and hospice centers.

“I think our staff had a great foundation,” Chandler said. “Because of that, very early on, as soon as the vaccines were available, our staff were signing up, getting their vaccine, and they were probably 80% very early on, and at this point, we’re 100% vaccinated.”

She added that they have one person with a medical exemption and one nurse who decided to quit, rather than comply with the vaccine mandate. Chandler said that a bigger problem is finding staff. They are currently looking for nurses and masters-prepared social workers for what she claimed can be challenging work.

You lose your patients over time, and you will still go with the family struggles, and that accumulation of grief and loss that you watch others go through really does take a toll, so good self-care is really important, but it’s very rewarding.”

She said the grief is tempered with the comfort brought to families. The Hospice of CNY served 56,000 patients in 2020 — up almost 10,000 from the previous year. Chandler believes families were forced to make different end-of-life decisions for elderly and other frail loved ones due to COVID restrictions in nursing homes.

“I think more who might’ve put someone in the nursing home elected to their family member home or keep them home, and I think that might’ve impacted some,” she said. “I think the hospital’s trying to move people out a little quicker. We might’ve seen the patient sooner than we might otherwise.” 

She said the whole chain of health care is disrupted, leading to more people seeking hospice care, and thus the staff shortages the pandemic has brought.