LACONIA — With the Supreme Court ruling that the COVID vaccine mandate for staff at federally funded health-care facilities can proceed, officials at the Belknap County Nursing Home are waiting to see what impact the decision will ultimately have on the facility.

On Thursday the court lifted two injunctions blocking a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule which had been on hold for several weeks. A federal district court had put the mandate on hold in several states, including New Hampshire.

At issue is what will be the ultimate outcome for more than 15 unvaccinated people who work in the nursing home.

Currently there are 14 nursing home employees, plus three others who work for the outside company which provides food service, who are unvaccinated, Nursing Home Administrator Shelley Richardson said Friday.

She said those workers would either need to get inoculated or would have to qualify to be exempted from the mandate on either medical or religious grounds. Any exemption applications will need to be evaluated by the county human resources department.

“We will see who can get exempted for a qualifying reason,” County Administrator Debra Shackett said.

Richardson said that some employees who had earlier declined to get vaccinated had gotten their shot within the past week.

Some health-care facilities in the city have had their own vaccine mandate for staff workers in place for some time, including Concord Hospital-Laconia, and St. Francis Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. The County Nursing Home, on the other hand, strongly recommended all staff be vaccinated, but left the ultimate decision up to the individual worker.

Under CMS regulations, facilities with less than 100% vaccination coverage could lose their Medicare or Medicare funding under the CMS mandate. The agency has previously said, however, that it would pursue other enforcement measures first. It also has said it will provide 30-day and 60-day grace periods to providers that get shots to more than 80% of staff by the first deadline.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Health Care Association, which represents 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide, said he feared Thursday’s court ruling would have a devastating effect on long-term care facilities which are already struggling with staff shortages.

The high number of staff vacancies at the county nursing home has forced the facility to stop admitting new residents. Currently the facility is operating at just two-thirds of its rated capacity.

Of the 17 unvaccinated nursing home workers, 13 are in nursing, a number which Richardson said is particularly worrisome.

“I’m just waiting to see what is going to happen,” she said.

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