As sharp as ever, 95-year-old Robert Babcock is well aware of New Brunswick’s new requirement that nursing home staff and visitors be fully vaccinated.
“My question is, ‘What took them so long?'” the nursing home resident in Riverview asks. “We’re very vulnerable with our age, we have enough problems getting out of bed in the morning without dealing with COVID.
“It’s the way it should be,” he says. “We need every protection we can get.”
New Brunswick announced Wednesday all nursing home and adult residential facility staff will need to be fully vaccinated, or undergo regular COVID-19 testing and mask up.
The owner of the nursing home Babcock lives in says the move will take stress off staff, now having the backing of a provincial mandate.
“I am very pleased. I’ve wanted that for a long time,” says Lynn Grass, a registered nurse and owner of The Grass Home.
“It takes a lot of weight (off),” she says. “It’s been stressful through COVID, you’re dealing with a lot of different people that want to come in and some families have chosen to be vaccinated, some have chosen not to. But you know it’s a sensitive subject for a lot of people, they don’t want to just be asked off the cuff, at times.”
She says most of her staff are vaccinated, and the “small percentage” who are not will be tested for COVID-19 three times per week.
Staff have continued to wear masks and Grass says she doesn’t foresee that changing any time soon.
Seniors advocate Cecile Cassista has been asking for the mandate, calling the decision “welcome news.”
“Anybody going into these care facilities should be vaccinated,” says Cassista, the executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights. “There should be no excuse, I mean we’ve locked up these vulnerable seniors for 17 months and I think we need to take a responsible role to make sure that they’re protected.”
The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes also supports the move.
“We have unfortunately about 18 per cent of our employees who are refusing to get vaccines,” interim executive director Michael Keating says. “In the event of an outbreak, they would not be allowed to come to work.”
But Keating says there will still be details that need to be finalized.
“This also has to be balanced with the need for our residents to have interactions with their family and the like, so we’re in the process now of trying to determine what exactly each home shall do,” he says.
The province also announced Wednesday that anyone who lives and works in some communal settings — like assisted living facilities, shelters, community kitchens and addiction and mental health treatment facilities — will now be required to be fully vaccinated, or required to wear a mask and get tested regularly for COVID-19.