The government has ruled that anyone working in a care setting with adults aged 65 and over must be fully vaccinated by November 11. That means their first jabs must be completed by September 16.
Specialist care provider PJ Care is facing the loss of ten percent of the 250 highly-trained staff it employs at Eagle Wood on Bretton Way. The centre cares for people with progressive neurological conditions and acquired brain injuries.
Doctors from Wansford Surgery have been into Eagle Wood to talk to staff and answer their questions and nurses were on board the bus offering information.
PJ Care’s chairman Neil Russell said: “We have the most amazing staff team and we don’t want to have to say goodbye to any of them.
“There are some who, for their own personal reasons, do not feel able to have the vaccine, which we have to respect. Their reluctance to take the vaccine should not be seen as a willingness to put our residents at risk – nothing could be further from the truth.
“There are others who hadn’t yet made an appointment or who were now happy to have the vaccinations as a result of information we’ve given them, questions they’ve been able to ask, and just having had a bit of extra time to consider it. Bringing in the mobile unit made it easy for them to have their jab and feel confident that they can continue with their job here.”
Head of Maintenance at PJ Care Ben Weddup was among nine staff who decided to visit the bus to get vaccinated; saying that he wanted to keep the job he loves.
He added: “I’ve never had a flu jab or anything like that and I wasn’t planning on having the vaccine but when it became mandatory and I started looking into more, I felt I wanted to protect myself and everyone around me. Having the bus here on site was really reassuring. I’ve been 100% fine since having the jab – I realise I was worrying over nothing really.”
Neil, together with other providers in the sector, has made representation to the government and the House of Lords against mandatory vaccinations for staff because of the potential loss of thousands of workers, however, as PJ Care heads towards the deadline, vaccination rates among staff continue to rise.
“We want to reassure families and commissioners that we will be able to continue to provide a safe service for our residents,” he added. “While we are facing the loss of some care staff, receptionists, housekeeping and maintenance staff, we are also recruiting a number who already have their vaccinations in place.”
PJ Care is holding a raffle in which fully vaccinated staff can win a brand-new car, an illustration, said Neil, of just how valuable they are.
“Our team are dedicated, caring and highly skilled. Some have been with us for close to 20 years. We have invested a great deal in them and if the chance to win a car makes just one staff member stay, it will have been worth it.”