Long term care facilities face staffing issues, ask for more help

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MANHEIM TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) – On Wednesday 24 staffers of Landis Communities in Lancaster County were sidelined because of COVID-19.

Director of Human Resources of Landis Communities, Sandra Smoker, said the staff members who were off either tested positive for the virus, or were quarantining due to exposure.

“Part of what we’re seeing is that congregate settings outside of work are really impacting inside of work,” Smoker told ABC27 News.

The story at Landis Communities is a cautionary tale for all personal care facilities.

Long term care providers are having to get creative to keep staffing at safe levels.

Smoker said at Landis Communities they take advantage of a program that puts workers on the fast track to become nursing assistants.

“This waiver program is temporary and we don’t know when it might end,” Smoker said. “There’s legislation pending to make it permanent. So these 11 people who have been working as nursing assistants, we’re going to be in a bind if they all have to stop and go take a class.”

Staffing has been a priority and a problem for personal care facilities since the pandemic began.

“This is really an all hands on deck situation,” President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, Zach Shamberg, said. “When I think back to March we requested the flexibility for staff to perform other roles and duties as long as they have proper abbreviated training.”

Shamberg said nearly 4,000 people have taken advantage of the waiver program and that an extension for the program sits on Governor Wolf’s desk.

Shamberg said without the extension of the program quality care will take a hit.

“The issue of staffing is at top of mind,” Shamberg said. “(It’s also) arguably top of the concern right now for long term care providers not just in Pennsylvania, but nationwide.”

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