(Update: Adding video, comments from at-home care businesses)
'Vaccination is a personal choice, and we encourage our caregivers to get vaccinated'
BEND, Ore (KTVZ) -- Under an Oregon Health Authority exemption, workers for in-home care providers do not have to get vaccinated, and that could help ease the hiring squeeze for those Central Oregon companies trying to meet a growing demand for their services.
Specifically, the OHA has not extended its vaccination mandate to a person’s private home, if the home is not otherwise licensed, registered or certified as a facility or home as listed in the rule.
With the health care industry desperate to fill many positions and find more applicants, that rule could impact their staffing challenges.
Patricia Lucas, administrator for Interim HealthCare of Central Oregon, said her family opened an office in 2020.
"We have a lot of wonderful caregivers and clients, but we probably turn away three times more work than we already have, because there's so much need for home care in Central Oregon," Lucas said Tuesday.
Lucas said unlike traditional jobs, they hire as they take on clients. As of now, Lucas said they have about 40 clients.
Karen Clark, director of Visiting Angels, said at this point, they'll take as many caregivers as they can get.
"So we are hiring caregivers that are unvaccinated," she said, though she added, "We are strongly encouraging the vaccine for all of our caregivers."
Both Lucas and Clark said their hiring process does not hinge on whether someone is vaccinated or not. Rather, it's based on someone who is competent and demonstrates love and compassion.
"Vaccination is a personal choice, and we encourage our caregivers to get vaccinated. Most of them are," Lucas said. "So we ask them when we interview them, but that's up to them whether or not they're vaccinated."
Clark said, "We have strict protocols in place for our caregivers, including Covid education, PPE, masks, gloves, whatever they need. So we keep our caregivers as safe as possible, as well as our clients."
If clients ask if their caregiver is vaccinated, Lucas said they tell them. Clark said clients can always request vaccinated caregivers.
"Also, any of our clients in communities, in assisted living, independent, memory care, we will only send vaccinated caregivers to those communities," Clark said.