Nursing home staffer says nearly a dozen have left since employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate

JANESVILLE, Wis. – A requirement forcing staff to choose between the COVID-19 vaccination and their job has forced nearly a dozen employees out of Rock Haven nursing home, according to staff member Michelle Lynch.

The nursing home, run by Rock County, is one of the only in South-Central Wisconsin mandating employees to get the shot or lose their jobs.

“If it would have been voluntarily at first, I think a lot of people would have received the vaccine,” Lynch said. “I think because it’s told it’s mandatory, a lot of people are fighting back. They don’t want to be told they have to take a vaccine that’s not FDA approved.”

While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations have been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA, neither are fully approved by the regulatory board. Still, Wisconsin DHS says employers can mandate the shots for staff as long as there are religious and medical exceptions.

Still Lynch said she’s worried about more staff leaving if the rules don’t change.

“We’re going to be short staffed in accounting, the finance department, with our CNA’s and our nurses,” she said. “The quality of care might suffer if all these staff leave.”

While Rock County Administrator Josh Smith declined a request for interview, several board members say they plan to challenge the rule during a board meeting on Jan. 28.

“I think we’re going to have to look at this real hard at the next county board meeting,” said Supervisor Brian Knudson, who chairs Rock County’s Human Services Board.  “I don’t think it’s fair to proceed laying off people. That’s not right. I also don’t think that’s fair on the other staff being doubled up on work potentially because now they’re minus workers.”

County Chairman Rich Bostwick said if the rule is challenged, a new rule could be passed in its place with a simple majority agreement from County Supervisors.

“I didn’t like the fact that people were being laid off because they refused to take the vaccine, that’s not fair,” Knudson said. “Not when the state isn’t mandating it on people. There’s other health systems that haven’t mandated it or forced it on their employees. I don’t think it was fair at all for employees to get reprimanded for not taking it.”