Disability facility challenges mandatory vaccinations

By Phil Black , for CNN One of the leading facilities in the U.S. for independent living programs for people with disabilities is pushing back on a new law mandating vaccinations for all staffers…

Disability facility challenges mandatory vaccinations

By Phil Black , for CNN

One of the leading facilities in the U.S. for independent living programs for people with disabilities is pushing back on a new law mandating vaccinations for all staffers and homeowners.

When Maryland passed the law last year, many other states followed suit with similar mandates, but the Trump administration has put the brakes on it.

Only 15 of the 53 facilities in the Maryland Center for Independent Living — the largest such center in the country — have signed on to enforce the mandate, according to executive director Marty Harris.

“It is a safety issue for the residents,” Harris said. “A lot of people are taking advantage. We don’t want people to have adverse reactions (to vaccinations) or have their respiratory tracts strewn in our halls.”

First, the hospital stays were reduced

The Maryland Center for Independent Living provides services for about 1,800 adults with serious physical and cognitive disabilities, some of whom would otherwise need to go to a nursing home, until age 22.

Staff are vaccinated against tuberculosis, measles, mumps, shingles, chicken pox, polio, chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, and pertussis.

But when the new law was passed, the center’s previous hospital stays were dropped, the number of staff who receive the vaccinations dropped to six from 42 and the number of homes eligible for funding was slashed from two to one.

Affected homeowners have been told they must hire a family member or friend to vaccinate them.

In some cases, staff have slipped by but in others they are being sued by one the state’s largest nursing homes for not complying.

Denial of care

Jill Ervin, from Texas, sued Silverado Health Care. Her husband, Michael, and daughter, Veronica, were admitted to the facility in 2014. They were treated for pneumonia, a fall, an infection and what later turned out to be an outbreak of pseudomonas. Their condition continued to deteriorate until the family filed a claim with the state.

“Both were bedridden, suffering from severe pain and require a wheelchair to get around,” their lawsuit said. “Silverado has not discharged these patients, despite their attempts to seek discharge, because they were medically unable to leave hospital beds for chronic care or to leave the nursing home for long-term care.”

In the lawsuit, Silverado Health Care denies using pseudomonas as a loophole to avoid the law and states, “The health care facility was not aware that the patient with pseudomonas was a member of the enrolled health plan. Therefore, there were no exemptions.”

Not all of the 23 states that currently have similar laws in place support a federal standard, requiring vaccinations for all employees and owners as well. Eight states say they will only require vaccinations for occupants.

Mississippi and Georgia are among the states that oppose a federal law, but Maryland considers the mandate a law.

“In Maryland, we think a mandatory vaccination law is absolutely necessary to protect the rights of families,” said Kathleen Hartwig, a spokeswoman for Maryland governor Larry Hogan.

The six remaining centers in Maryland will begin to require a vaccination for all staff when the law is fully implemented on July 1.

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