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Washington warns of 'critical staffing shortages' at Port Orchard veterans home

The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs said it may have to temporarily move some residents out of the home, where 52% of the staff are fully vaccinated.

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — A state home for veterans in Port Orchard is warning residents and their families it may have to temporarily move some people out of the home due to “critical staffing shortages.”

The Washington Veterans Home, also known as the Retsil facility, says it has approximately 40 vacant direct care positions, and they are trying to free up 40 beds, part of a plan to make sure they can adequately care for the current residents.

The department sent a letter to residents and their families on August 26 which said, “we have made the decision to temporarily transfer residents to other local facilities that have the ability to provide care at this time.”

A spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs said moving people to other homes is a last resort, and as of Monday, no residents were transferred.

The department said it hopes to open up additional beds by not filling vacancies, and up to four residents may have to temporarily move to another local facility in the next few weeks.

The healthcare worker shortage is part of a nationwide problem and could worsen if unvaccinated employees continue to resist getting the shots.

Washington is requiring state employees and workers in private health care and long-term care settings to be fully vaccinated by October 18.

Fifty-two percent of the staff at the Washington Veterans Home in Port Orchard home were fully vaccinated as of Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs said.

“If you won't do your share and get vaccinated now, you won't be working for the State of Washington,” Gov. Jay Inslee said when announcing the mandate.

The Port Orchard home was also the site of a recent COVID-19 outbreak: 41 residents and 13 staff have caught the virus since the end of July, the state said. Two of the residents died.

The state says it’s actively recruiting for open healthcare positions in Port Orchard and is using contractors to help fill gaps.

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