Sep 23, 2021 - Health

Nursing homes could be forced to close if staff shortages worsen

Workforce problems at long-term care facilities
Data: AHCA/NCAL; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

We've all heard dire reports about the dearth of workers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but the situation continues to deteriorate — and the growing number of mask mandates, which are vital, could exacerbate the crisis.

Why it matters: Stalwarts of the care community could be forced to close if they can't find enough people to fill open positions or if current workers are forced into such onerous shifts that they can't take it anymore.

Driving the news: Come next Monday, all health care workers in New York state will face termination if they don't have at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot.

  • This will "compound a staffing crisis already afflicting many hospitals and long-term care facilities — including group homes for disabled individuals, where some nurses are being forced to work 24-hour shifts," per the Times-Union of Albany.
  • About 81% of hospital employees "have been fully vaccinated, but many others are declining or reluctant to be vaccinated — putting them on a collision course with the mandate set to take effect on Sept. 27," the paper says.

By the numbers: 78% of nursing homes are concerned they may have to close if the staffing emergency persists, as are 71% of assisted living facilities, according to a survey by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

  • 86% of nursing homes and 77% of assisted living providers said the problem has worsened in the last three months.
  • Nearly all are asking employees to work overtime or extra shifts.
  • 45% of nursing homes (and 40% of assisted care places) said vaccine requirements by states or employers were the biggest obstacle in hiring.

What they're saying: "I've been in the industry for 40 years, and I've never seen it this bad," said Terry Robertson, chief executive of Josephine Caring Community, a long-term-care facility in Stanwood, Washington, told the Wall Street Journal.

  • "We turned down 138 admissions from hospitals last month because we didn't have the staff to open another unit," he told the WSJ.

The bottom line: Health care providers are using these scary stats to press for more money from Washington, D.C.

  • "Congress has the opportunity right now, through budget reconciliation, to include meaningful investments in long-term care, which will help address key staffing challenges," Mark Parkinson, CEO of AHCA/NCAL, said in a press release.
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