Patricia and Howard Winn, Clarksville, Tennessee, aren’t taking any chances when it comes to their health. They have been diligent about wearing masks, avoiding large crowds, and practicing social distancing. Despite all this, they came down with COVID-19 after getting the vaccine, which is known as a breakthrough infection. The disease put Howard in the ICU at a local hospital.
Patricia is doubling down on her efforts to protect her husband from the virus. That’s why she decided to give a home care nurse the boot after discovering she wasn’t vaccinated.
The infection took a serious toll on Howard’s health.
“They put me in, stuck some oxygen in my nose and I didn’t leave there for three weeks,” he said of his recent stay in the hospital.
The doctors would only let Howard return home if he stayed on oxygen. Today, there’s a lengthy supply running throughout his house.
“I’ve never thought about what animals with long tails have to put up with,” Howard said of the long oxygen tube coming from his mouth.
After Howard made it home, Patricia started asking home care nurses whether they had their shots.
“I said, ‘Well, have you had your vaccinations?’ She said, ‘no.’ And I said, ‘Well, why not?’ She said, ‘Well I’m healthy. If you’re healthy you don’t need that vaccination,’” according to Patricia.
Howard remembers watching Patricia interrogate the home care nurse. “Pat just got all over her and told her to get out of here. We don’t want anybody who hasn’t had the vaccination, especially a health care worker,” he added.
The nurse in question is employed with Tennova Home Health (THH). The company isn’t mandating that their workers get the vaccine.
A spokesman for LHC Group, which operates THH, says the company will continue recommending the vaccine to staff but it will wait for further instruction from the Biden administration in terms of issuing a mandate.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, we have implemented strict protocols for all clinicians regarding the use of personal protection equipment on patient visits – including the requirement for masks,” THH said in a statement.
The company added: “In addition, we provide updated guidance on CDC protocols and best practices to ensure our teams are prepared and informed. At all times, our number one priority is the health and well-being of our patients, employees, and the communities we serve. We, like many other healthcare companies, are awaiting further and more specific details from the Biden administration around the previously announced mandate.”
Officials in the home care industry say issuing a vaccine mandate could further exacerbate the existing workforce shortage, but experts say if nursing home staff are expected to get the shot, the same should be true of home care nurses that perform many of the same duties.
In August, the Georgia Health Care Association issued a statement, saying, “If the premise for this mandate is to protect vulnerable persons from unvaccinated staff, vaccination mandates for healthcare personnel should be applied to all health care settings as there are vulnerable populations being served in each.”
Howard says he would love for all home care nurses to get vaccinated. “We don’t want anybody — I don’t care who it is. The preacher, or the teacher or a doctor coming in that hasn’t been vaccinated. It’s our house,” he said.
While companies like THH wait to implement a mandate, Patricia says, “I expect doctors and nurses to take the vaccine. I expect the home health care workers to have the vaccine.”
At the end of the day, the couple got their way. THH says it will only send vaccinated home care nurses to their house from now on.