Crisis in long-term care facilities: Staffing shortages continue


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Staffing in long-term care facilities remains a major issue.

Leaders of the larger facilities are worried that the upcoming vaccine mandate will make hiring even more difficult.

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A new survey from the Pennsylvania Health Care Association shows 74% of respondents have limited their admissions in the past six months due to staffing challenges.

“Because we don’t have enough staff in our nursing homes, in our long-term care communities, we have providers who are turning away vulnerable seniors who need care,” Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, said.

The PHCA is sounding the alarm about staffing issues and the potential harm of President Biden’s vaccine mandate.

“We need to provide either testing alternatives or we need to have a plan for when those workers inevitably leave or are forced out,” Shamberg said.

63% of respondents in a recent survey say they’re undecided on how to respond to the mandate.

“Overall as a company our vaccination rate is 73% and at our skilled facility it is over 80%,” Meredith Mills, president and CEO of Country Meadows Retirement Communities, said.

Right now in Pennsylvania, one COVID case in long-term care is considered an outbreak until that case is contained.

“So until then visitation has to shut down,” Shamberg said. “Now we’ve encouraged our members, PHCA members and providers to allow outdoor visitation or to find ways to ensure that family members can see their loved ones.”

The PHCA is calling on policymakers to invest in the state’s Medicaid program so these facilities can offer more competitive wages and establish new rules for allowing some online learning with clinical training to grow a workforce pipeline.

PHCA’s survey also revealed that nearly 40% of participating long-term care operators cannot afford to provide care for more than 12 months, forcing them to consider sales or even outright facility closures. 

The Department of Health says it’s doing what it can to support long-term care facilities with information about and coordination for getting staff vaccinated.

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