Ohio skilled nursing facilities prepare for vaccine rollout

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Ohio skilled nursing facilities are trying to plan for the coronavirus vaccine rollout now that the CDC says elderly populations should be among those to receive it first. But they’re asking for more direction from the state, since the distribution could be weeks away. 

So far the state has provided only bits and pieces of information to skilled nursing facilities. Meanwhile industry leaders say elderly people who may otherwise move into the facilities are being scared away by the pandemic. It’s keeping them from pursuing critical medical care and treatment, and many skilled caregivers are being forced out of the industry for good. 

A vaccine could help change course. 

Peter Van Runkle is the Executive Director of the Ohio Health Care Association. He says, “Those individuals are more likely, quite frankly, to die from getting COVID. This is a way to save lives.” 

But the pressure is mounting as the anticipated vaccine rollout nears, and the damaging effects of the virus aren’t just physical. Chris Murray is the CEO of the Academy of Senior Health Sciences. He says, “They understand the difficulties of weighing the safety of the individual while also providing them the social needs. 

Van Runkle says fewer people are moving into care facilities. “They’re not getting the care they need because they’re afraid they might get COVID if they go there.” 

And the pandemic is also wearing down dedicated, trained staff. Murray says, “They have to help these people. They want to serve them. They want them to reach the highest quality of life possible.” 

Van Runkle says, “We have people getting burned out at a high clip, and they end up leaving the profession.” And so the industry professionals say the vaccine can’t come soon enough. 

The vaccines will be shipped to Ohio’s 10 pre-positioning sites, including Springfield Regional Medical Center. Doses will also be directly shipped to providers that need more than 975 doses. 

Smaller orders will be sent out in batches of 100 from the state’s warehouse, which Governor Mike DeWine toured this week. While there, he said, “The National Guard is in charge here, they’ve been practicing, they’re ready to go.” 

The vaccines must be packed within two minutes, and they’ll be delivered within six hours. DeWine said, “They got a clock on the wall, they got it timed, they know how long it takes them to do that.” 

But with the clock literally and figuratively ticking down, Van Runkle says he needs more information from the governor. “Unfortunately, the state of Ohio has not provided any kind of direction along those lines.” Both the Ohio Department of Health and Springfield Regional Medical Center have refused to provide more information. 

DeWine’s office says he’s expected to address the vaccine rollout Thursday at his coronavirus media briefing. 

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