POCAHONTAS, Ark. (KAIT) - Those on the frontlines fighting COVID-19 are starting to receive the vaccine, including long-term care facilities, but the question remains should employers require employees to get the vaccine.
Executive Director Rachel Bunch with the Arkansas Health Care Association (AHCA) says that there will be no mandate for workers or residents to get the vaccine, but it will be strongly encouraged.
Region 8 News received calls from multiple employees at the Pocahontas Healthcare & Rehab facility, which is under the AHCA umbrella, claiming if they wanted to receive their holiday bonuses, they would have to get the COVID vaccine.
According to Bunch, that is true for that facility.
“They are offering bonus payments to their workers,” Bunch said. “There are some different details to the program but one of the incentives is for those workers [at the facility] taking the vaccine.”
Bunch says bonus systems are different throughout long-term care facilities in the state, but for some like Pocahontas Health & Rehab, the COVID vaccine will be an “incentive.”
However, there are exceptions.
“If an employee has a medical exemption, a letter from their doctor, if the employee is pregnant, trying to get pregnant, and they or their doctor have concerns about the vaccine, they would be exempt,” Bunch said. “There’s also a process for exemptions for religious reasons.”
Those who fall under the aforementioned categories would still receive the bonus.
When it comes to the amount of bonus money given, that will be determined by the pay range of the workers at the specific center. While the requirements for each long-term care facility to receive a bonus differ, Bunch says there are generic standards employees must meet.
“[The criteria includes if employees] haven’t missed shifts, had a positive attitude, came to work and did everything else that was required of them,” Bunch said, speaking of the Pocahontas facility.
Bunch told Region 8 News that she expects the majority of residents and staff to receive the vaccine, but it will take time.
“Over time, we believe that the bulk of our residents and staff will receive it,” she said. “But it is going to be a process that requires education and patience.”