Bankrupt retirement homes

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New York State can mandate COVID vaccination for anyone involved in healthcare. What it cannot do is demand that new employees join this essential workforce.

Recent concerns about unvaccinated healthcare workers dropping off work en masse due to the governor’s tenure have proven to be unfounded. But that result could yet become a ruinous reality when New York’s new retirement home workforce ratio law goes into effect in several months. The question now becomes: how will the nursing home industry meet these new demands when it can barely attract sufficient staff now?

Without a comprehensive workforce development plan established and supported by our leaders in Albany, nursing homes in New York are doomed to fail.

Although the pandemic has exacerbated a staff shortage, the struggle for nursing homes to find qualified employees began long before the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not just a New York issue either. Seventy-five percent of nursing homes in the United States have demonstrated that they do not have enough staff to meet this recommendation. And this statistic was recorded in 2016, when the circumstances were much less dire.

Almost all nursing homes in the United States are struggling to find staff today, with 99% of them facing a shortage according to a September survey conducted by the American Health Care Association. And as the pandemic continued, the staff shortage only intensified. According to an Associated Press review of federal data, 32% of nursing homes had staffing levels in June compared to the start of the pandemic, showing that the exodus has grown over time .

Simply put, the recruitment and retention of nursing home staff is

the

urgent priority.

Look under the surface of the crisis and you will see that this situation has been evolving for some time. From a financial point of view, minimum wage levels make it difficult to justify working as a certified nursing assistant when it is little more than what one can earn by working in an industry. Services. Combine that with the devastating impact the pandemic has on residents and nursing home staff, which most Americans have witnessed for months and months in heartbreaking images. Other barriers to recruiting staff include the challenges of working in person, an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, and the mental and emotional toll of caring for the most vulnerable. Therefore, there is little incentive to get the workers of tomorrow to see the long-term care industry as their future.

The problem is real and immediate. Without sufficient staff, 78 percent of nursing homes across the country fear labor shortages will force them to close. This has already started to have implications for the next generation of nursing home residents, with 58% of long-term care facilities limiting new admissions due to understaffing.

In order to overcome the challenges ahead, Albany must become a full partner with the state nursing home industry to develop and implement a comprehensive workforce development plan. As the Hochul administration seeks a clean slate on a wide range of issues, the governor is expected to restore financial resources that were wiped out under the Cuomo administration. At the height of the pandemic – at a time when 23 other states and the District of Columbia all increased Medicaid funding to nursing homes – New York made the unreasonable decision to cut Medicaid funding by 1.5% .

Recognizing the slow motion crisis unfolding before our eyes, the Hochul administration should work with the nursing home industry to create a compelling messaging campaign that inspires potential staff members to pursue meaningful careers at our facilities. long-term care. As part of this campaign, state and industry should combine their resources to provide incentives for those who commit to entering nursing. Similar to the Peace Corps, those interested in nursing should be offered partial tuition reimbursements in exchange for working in a long-term care facility.

COVID-19 has proven that a pandemic can dismantle our healthcare system if we are either unable to identify the threat or unable to react quickly to deal with the crisis. It is imperative that we reimagine our healthcare system to incorporate the necessary resources so that we are not caught off guard when the next pandemic arrives.


Which begs the most pressing question: What happens on January 1 when Albany’s endowment mandate goes into effect? Will our leaders simply ignore the reality that fewer and fewer nursing home workers are showing up for work? Or will we learn from the past and heed this critical warning while we still have time?

Michael Balboni, of East Williston, is a former state senator, now executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, a trade association providing regulatory compliance and life safety services to over 80 New York metro area nursing homes.


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