In Tough Labor Market, Heritage Finding A Way

Heritage Ministries P-J file photo

Despite Heritage Ministries estimating it would lose about 10% of its staff due to a state vaccine mandate for workers at health care facilities, the organization continues to accept new admissions and remains “fully open” in Chautauqua County.

Efforts to attract new workers and retain those already on staff may be one reason why.

“We did see an impact of the vaccine mandate,” said Jennifer Whitten, Heritage chief operating officer. “We are very fortunate that a large majority of the staff wanted to continue their dedication toward our seniors. We had a very high number of our staff that chose to get vaccinated to continue that service.”

The nursing and assisted living organization, which operates Heritage Park in Jamestown, Heritage Green in Greenhurst and Heritage Village in Gerry, does have job openings in its dietary department, activities department and in clerical. Certified nursing assistants are also needed, Whitten said.

“We do have some open positions in Chautauqua County,” she said, later adding, “We’ve been fortunate (these openings) have not compromised our ability to provide great care.”

Heritage has not been immune to the labor shortage seen elsewhere in the country. It held open interviews last week and is offering perks to entice new workers.

The New York State Department of Labor said last week the number of private sector jobs increased over the month by 24,200, or 0.3%, to 7,614,800 in November 2021. By comparison, the number of private sector jobs in the U.S. increased by 0.2% in November 2021.

New York state’s private sector jobs (not seasonally adjusted) increased by 315,100, or 4.3%, over the year in November 2021. By comparison, the number of private sector jobs in the U.S. increased by 4.6% over the year.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 6.9% to 6.6% in November 2021.

Meanwhile, Heritage has also taken steps to thank its staff during the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, including offering turkeys at Thanksgiving and hams at Christmas. Last week, several employees were rewarded with paid time off and money to take a vacation. One employee received $3,000 and five days off; one employee received $1,500 and three days; and another received $500 and one day off.

The effort was part of a nomination process across the company. “It’s an investment in our staff,” Whitten said. “People are tired in health care. This gives them some money and some time off to get a break. That’s what we aim to do.”

Whitten said Heritage remains fully open to new admissions as well as visitations locally. According to its COVID-19 tracker, there were four cases at Heritage Park — three among staff and one resident. The last confirmed case among staff was reported Dec. 9 while the residential case was reported Dec. 6.

There are no current cases among staff or residents at Heritage Village and Heritage Green.

“Our admissions are open,” Whitten said. “We want to continue to be of service to the community. We’ve avoided the surge; infection prevention is incredibly important to us, and for visitors, we encourage them to take proper safety procedures.”


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