In case you missed it, The Washington Post reported on the staffing shortages in long term care facilities and the subsequent effect on overwhelmed hospitals across the country. Nursing homes without adequate staff are preventing hospitals from sending recovered patients to facilities to continue care.
Nursing homes want to alleviate the burden on hospitals, but without enough staff, many providers are unable to accept new residents. For example, in Buffalo, New York, Terrace View nursing home cannot run at full capacity, with 22 beds out of use due to staffing shortages. The article explains the consequences:
“That means some fully recovered patients in the adjacent Erie County Medical Center must stay in their hospital rooms, waiting for a bed in the nursing home. Which means some patients in the emergency department, who should be admitted to the hospital, must stay there until a hospital bed opens up. The emergency department becomes stretched so thin that 10 to 20 percent of arrivals leave without seeing a caregiver — after an average wait of six to eight hours, according to the hospital’s data.”
Terrace View and Erie County Medical Center are not alone, as many long term care facilities and hospitals across the nation are experiencing similar challenges. The article references a survey from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), which found that approximately 58 percentof nursing homes are limiting admissions because of staffing shortages.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 425,000 employees have left the long term care workforce since February 2020. But as economic recovery began and other industries have rebounded, nursing homes have not:
“Remarkably, despite the horrific incidents of death and illness in nursing homes at the outset of the pandemic, more staff departures have come during the economic recovery. As restaurants and shops reopened and hiring set records, nursing homes continued to bleed workers, even as residents returned.
“Nearly 237,000 workers left during the recovery, data through November show. No other industry suffered anything close to those losses over the same period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
While staffing challenges existed before the pandemic, the loss of 425,000 employees has “narrowed the bottleneck” at long term care facilities:
“With the omicron variant raising fears of even more hospitalizations, the problems faced by nursing homes are taking on even more importance. Several states have sent National Guard members to help with caregiving and other chores.”
The problem is worse in rural areas. For example, the article highlights a facility in Medford, Oklahoma that closed its doors last year because it didn’t have enough staff to continue providing care. The facility primarily served residents with mental health needs. Diakonos Group CEO Scott Pilgrim, who owned the facility, said the home “was never easy to staff, but once we started through covid and everything, our staff was just burned out.”
Despite boosting hourly wages and offering bonuses and overtime, Pilgrim said workers kept leaving for health-care jobs and positions in other industries. He added, “The hospitals are backed up … They’re trying to find anywhere to send people. We get referrals from states all around us. The hospitals are desperate to find places to send people.”
AHCA/NCAL has long called for lawmakers to work with the long term care sector to address the staffing crisis and invest in the recruitment and retainment of caregivers. As the pandemic persists and the industry’s workforce creates negative consequences for overburdened hospitals, the time to act is now. Congress must step in so we can alleviate the pressure on hospitals and long term care facilities have the staff they need to continue providing quality care.