Long-Term Care Operator Sun Heath Offers Staff $250 To Get COVID-19 Vaccine

Published: Monday, February 8, 2021 - 8:45am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 12:47pm

Nursing homes have been hit hard by the coronavirus — staff have gotten sick and some have died. But the vaccine hasn’t been exactly embraced by front line workers. Now one organization has come up with a way to incentivize staff. 

Sun Health operates three life plan communities in the West Valley, that include long-term care services. And like a lot of places across the country, staff were not excited about the vaccine. And they weren’t signing up to get it. 

Tahlya Visintainer, Sun Health’s chief operating officer, says they didn’t want to mandate the vaccine. Instead, they decided to offer staff $250 if they got the shot. So, did it work?

"Yes, we did see an uptick in employees who are — and team members — who are choosing to be vaccinated," she said. "At the same time, we are also offering more clinics through our partnership with Walgreens for congregate living, so the two coincided really well."

Visintainer says since they offered the incentive, the number of vaccinated staff has gone from 30% to 50%. 

Meanwhile, some employers have mandated the shot. Visintainer said that is not something Sun Health plans to do at this point.

"When you make something mandatory, then you have to provide exceptions for religious or medical reasons," she explained. "And so we didn't want [to do that]; that's something that we face every year with the flu shot. We've made the flu shots mandatory. And so we wanted to have a different approach, at least at this time with regard to the COVID vaccine."

So why the hesitancy to get the vaccine? Shari John is a registered nurse at La Loma Village in Litchfield Park, a Sun Health community. She says some of her colleagues were scared to get the vaccine because of what they had read on social media. 

"Like the government's tracking us, so we just heard that a lot from our employees. And so we got information from the CDC and from our doctor here. And so we just went over all that," said John. "And so now, I think they're more receptive. We had more people that did the vaccine the second go around."

Vaccine fears are not just an Arizona problem. Nursing home staff across the country have expressed concerns over the coronavirus vaccine and are refusing the vaccine in fairly high numbers. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify the types of communities operated by Sun Health.

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