GLENVILLE — Schenectady County continues to seek new workers for its short-staffed nursing home, but is on the verge of completing one key hire: A new administrator has been chosen to replace the industry veteran who has led the Glendale Home for four years. The hiring will take effect upon approval by the County Legislature at its July meeting.
It was Administrator Lori Tambasco’s decision to leave, County Manager Rory Fluman said Thursday.
Tambasco led changes that have improved the regulatory ratings applied to the facility, he said, and of course was at the helm during the COVID pandemic.
“She shepherded us through some rocky times,” Fluman said.
Tambasco gave six weeks’ notice of her departure; her last day will be June 30.
Fluman would not publicly identify the person who has accepted the offer to replace Tambasco until the hiring process is complete. Because that will take some time, Fluman — whose previous career was in healthcare — will be spending four hours a day, five days a week at Glenville in an interim administrative role in July.
Recruitment efforts continue for lower-ranking employees, as well. The county is advertising job openings for certified nursing assistants and is also seeking licensed practical and registered nurses.
They’d hire 10 CNAs and nurses today if they had the right applicants, Fluman said. “We are down staff.”
The county Legislature last year boosted pay for some Glendale employees and just recently authorized $2,000 retention bonuses in an effort to address their piece of what is an industrywide shortage of personnel that existed before the COVID pandemic and continues today.
Even with the pandemic on the wane, COVID-19 is an issue that continues to affect the Glendale Home, as an infection on-site can cause restrictions on visitations. State health officials have eased limitations on outside contact but remain cautious due to the terrible impact the virus can have on the frail elderly living in group facilities.
Glendale’s residents are largely protected now: As of Wednesday, 96.3% were fully vaccinated and 1.6% partially vaccinated.
But only 75.1% of employees are fully or partially vaccinated.
Schenectady County has the highest adult vaccination rate of any county in the state — 79.5% — and is actively working to take that rate even higher, including by encouraging Glendale Home employees to get the shot.
One person complained this week to The Daily Gazette and other area media outlets that the campaign at Glendale has crossed the line into coercion.
“Of course we’re encouraging all of our employees to be vaccinated,” Fluman said. “We are not mandating it because we cannot.”
He said he’s not aware of any instances where encouragement escalated into threats or coercion.
“We’re civil service, we’re subject to very strong rules,” Fluman said. “That would be bullying.”
Much of Glendale’s workforce is represented by two unions: CSEA and 1199SEIU.
CSEA said Thursday it is not aware of any threats against employees who don’t get vaccinated.
An 1199SEIU spokesperson said Thursday she’s received reports that a handful of members have felt unduly pressured to vaccinate but none have reported any threat against their employment status.
Both unions say they strongly encourage members to get vaccinated, and have mounted education campaigns toward that goal, but both also oppose mandatory vaccination. 1199SEIU spoke out against New York Presbyterian Hospital’s decision earlier this month to mandate vaccination among its 48,000 employees. The Manhattan-based system was apparently the first in the state to impose such a mandate.
The person who reached out to the media about Glendale Home flagged an apparently contradictory letter to an unvaccinated employee that 1) authorized a vacation, 2) ordered a two-week furlough afterward because the vacation would entail out-of-state travel, and 3) forbade the employee from taking any time off after the vacation under threat of disciplinary action.
It might have just been sloppy wording, he acknowledged, rather than an impossible choice — don’t come to work but don’t take time off either.
Fluman said the furlough is a state requirement.
“There are folks that are upset about that,” he acknowledged.
Fluman said he considers the 75.1% employee vaccination rate at Glendale a work in progress.
“For a nursing home employee I would characterize that as a good number,” he said.
The advocacy organization for the non-profit elder-care industry has set a goal of 80%, Fluman said, and 80% to 90% of Glendale’s employees typically get the flu shot. So there’s room for improvement, he said.
Across the eight-county Capital Region, rates of at least partial vaccination for nursing home employees range from 40.9% (Glens Falls Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing) to 88.8% (Fort Hudson Nursing Center).
For Schenectady County nursing homes, the rates are:
- Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center 65.0%
- Ellis Residential & Rehabilitation Center 65.6%
- Glendale Home 75.1%
- Kingsway Arms Nursing Center 84.8%
- Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center 82.3%
- Schenectady Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing 63.3%