Wisconsin Nursing Home Staff Laid Off for Declining COVID-19 Vaccine

Employees at a Janesville nursing home risk losing their job if they do not take the COVID-19 vaccine, a policy that has caused outrage among many staff members.

Officials at Rock Haven, a Rock County-owned facility, issued a memo in December telling employees that the vaccine was “a requirement for all staff” and that employees who failed to get the vaccine would be laid off. A copy of the memo was obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request.

According to the memo, a laid-off employee will not be eligible to return to work until they complete the two-dose vaccine regimen.

Rock Haven officials have taken a hard line on vaccination, employees say, despite some employees’ concerns about unknown long-term effects or worries about their pregnancy or their fertility.

Michelle Lynch, a secretary at Rock Haven, said employees should not be forced to get the vaccine.

“We have staff that are having side-effects from it, and they’re being told, ‘Too bad,’ ” she said.

In letters to Rock County supervisors, two employees said they suffered high fevers and other side-effects from getting the vaccine on Jan. 5, the first day the nursing home conducted vaccinations. One of them wrote that the side-effects were so bad she had to go to the doctor and was advised not to get the second shot of the vaccine.

Terra Anderson said she lost her job as a registered nurse when she didn’t report to receive the vaccine on Jan. 5. She was worried about unknown long-term effects of the vaccine.

She later got a letter dated Jan. 6 telling her that she had been laid off for her “inability to meet the essential functions of your job; failure to complete the Covid-19 vaccine as scheduled,” according to a copy of the letter provided by Anderson.

The letter said she could return to her job at Rock Haven if there was a change in circumstances and instructed her to provide any updated medical information.

“I don’t understand why we are the only ones who made it mandatory,” she said.

Anderson said when she lost her job, she lost her health insurance. But she is fortunate, she said, to have a significant other with a decent-paying job.

As the vaccine rolls out, questions have arisen about whether employers can, or should, require employees to be vaccinated. Generally speaking, legal experts say, they can, but so far few cases have emerged where employers — public or private — have done so.

Nursing homes have been the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 1,500 nursing home residents in Wisconsin have died with COVID-19, according to data reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services through Jan. 3, the latest available.

That’s around 30% of all COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin. Most of those 1,500 deaths occurred in the last three months, when COVID-19 cases and deaths skyrocketed in nursing homes.

Rock Haven has reported 13 positive cases in residents since May, with the last positive case reported in October, according to the CMS data. Two Rock Haven residents have died from COVID-19, according to the data.

There are a little over 90 residents, according to the latest data.

Forty staff members have tested positive for the virus since May, including some recently, according to the data.

Officials at CVS and Walgreens, the two main pharmacy chains conducting vaccinations at long-term care facilities across the country, have said that long-term care employees have been much more reluctant than residents to get the vaccine.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities, estimated that, overall, around 50% of long-term care staff are getting the vaccine during the first vaccine visit.

“We’re having a real challenge with staff,” he said during a web briefing Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. There are rampant rumors spreading on social media that the vaccine can cause fertility problems, which has caused concerns among many of the young women that work in our facilities.”

But he said that mandating the vaccine is not necessarily the answer.

“I don’t know what the right answer is. I know that we have to get the acceptance rate among staff much higher than it’s been,” he said. “I’m way more of a carrot than a stick person. I’ve been encouraging providers to offer incentives and awards and bonuses to people who get the vaccine as opposed to punishments if they don’t.”

He said few long-term care providers nationwide have mandated the vaccine for their staff, in part because of concerns over staffing shortages.

Betty Halverson, who works in housekeeping at Rock Haven, said she didn’t feel comfortable getting the vaccine, but that she did anyway because she isn’t ready to retire.

“I’m 64. … Who’s going to hire me?” she said. “I had to get the shot because I couldn’t afford to take a layoff.”

It’s unclear exactly how many people have been laid off at Rock Haven for declining the vaccine. Neither the nursing home’s interim administrator, nor Rock County Administrator Josh Smith, returned messages Friday seeking an interview.

The Gazette in Janesville quoted Smith as saying three or four Rock Haven employees had been laid off after declining the vaccine.

Lynch, the Rock Haven secretary, said five or six employees lost their jobs.

There are about 200 employees at Rock Haven, she said, including not only nurses and aides, but also maintenance, housekeeping and administration.

In the letters to county supervisors, some employees voiced concern that the mandate would hurt staffing levels and ultimately jeopardize resident care. They worry more people will be laid off when the next round of employees is scheduled to receive their first dose of the vaccine on Feb. 2.

Some county supervisors were surprised to find out Thursday about the mandate. At a Thursday board meeting, the Rock County clerk read aloud several letters from employees objecting to the mandate.

County Supervisor Wayne Gustina said he thought the vaccine requirement was “totally wrong.”

“It should be left up to the individual,” he said. “They’re stepping way out of bounds, way out of line on this.”

County Supervisor Kathy Schulz asked about exemptions, saying they should be considered for those employees getting seriously ill.

The issue will be on the next meeting’s agenda on Jan. 28, Gustina said.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  1. ken says

    We don’t need government to order us around,,, Their straw bosses do the job willingly.

    Any business owner or corporation that FORCES their employee to take this experimental shot should be sued out of existence. They do not have the immunity that was given to pharma.

    Have a lawyer draw up papers the employer and person giving the shot can sign that they take full responsibility if something goes wrong.

    Then see how many of these bastards try to force their employees.

    1. Vonu says

      Pharma doesn’t have immunity, just suspended liability.

  2. Vonu says

    If the patients didn’t have to be vaccinated, why would it matter if the mostly younger staff did?

  3. Jim Yost says

    Coronamania Quotes – Regarding mentally and morally deranged hypocrites like Dr. Falsie and Bill Gates and people in power who they control (or who control them), their cockamamie face diaper mandates, ‘Lockdowns,’ vaccines, social distancing, etc. and the ever growing public outcry against them and their worthless agendas:

    “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed.” Isaiah 10:1 in the King James Version
    “Men seldom, or rather never for a length of time and deliberately, rebel against anything that does not deserve rebelling against.” Thomas Carlyle
    “The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” Frederick Douglass
    “Any general loathing of a gang or sect usually has some sound basis in instinct.” Ezra Pound
    “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.” Henry David Thoreau
    “It’s better to die on your feet than live on your knees.” Alexander Lukashenko
    “They will create the virus themselves and will sell you the antidote.” Muammar al Gaddafi
    “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, pervasive, and unrealistic.” John F. Kennedy.
    “It is by its promise of a sense of power that evil often attracts the weak.” Eric Hoffer
    “Those who fervently seek the annihilation of others are really driven by the longing for self-annihilation.” Emile Durkheim
    “All ambitions are lawful except those that climb upward on the miseries and credulities of mankind.” Henry Ward Beecher 
    “If all else fails, immorality can always be assured by spectacular error.” John Kenneth Galbraith
    “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” Frederick Douglass
    “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Frederick Douglass
    “The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a worldwide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the decade.” Hannah Arendt, 1969 
    “The greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is by human beings who refuse to be persons.” Hannah Arendt
    “Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is rotten to the core.” Hannah Arendt
    “Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity are still the last guarantee of their loyalty.” Hannah Arendt
    “Before man’s leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of men who can fabricate it.” Hannah Arendt
    “Love by its very nature is unworldly, and it is for this reason, rather than its rarity, that it is not only apolitical but antipolitical, perhaps the most powerful of all antipolitical forces.” Hannah Arendt 
    “Suffering by nature or chance never seems so painful as suffering inflicted on us by the arbitrary will of another.” Arthur Schopenhauer
    “If you give someone power, they’re going to use it.” Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
    “Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand.” Murphy (from Murphy’s Laws)
    “It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.” Murphy.
    “If you build a system that a fool can use, only a fool will use it.” Murphy
    “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The Law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. The wicked watcheth the righteous and seeketh to slay him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. Wait on the Lord and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not: Yea, I sought him but he could not be found.” Psalm 37:30-36 in the King James Version.

    1. Nurse says

      Blah Blah Blah!

  4. Nurse says

    BRAVO ” Rock County Administrator Josh Smith BRAVO! Someone has to prevent early deaths of our innocent Elders! Every Hospital, Clinic and Nursing Home should do the same!
    Thank you! MN Nurse

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