(The Center Square) – More than 9,000 healthcare workers in Indiana – more than 11% of the total workforce – have left the long-term care industry since the start of the pandemic, leaving nursing homes desperate for staff to care for growing numbers of sick people.
Nick Goodwin, chief government officer for the Indiana Health Care Association, which represents 85% of all nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and independent care facilities in the state, said many nursing homes nurses increased salaries and bonuses for employees in an attempt to keep good workers. and retain new ones.
âOur suppliers have increased wages up to $ 17-20 an hour,â he said, comparing that to the rate of $ 8.50 an hour that was typical just a few years ago. .
A review of figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a steady decline in the number of long-term care workers in Indiana starting in March 2020, the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In that month, 79,564 healthcare workers worked in long-term care facilities across the state, down from 79,910 the month before.
By June 2020, the number had fallen to less than 76,000 and by September 2020 to less than 74,000. By January 2021, it had fallen to less than 73,000, and in June, the most recent month for which figures are available, it had fallen to 70,887.
By comparison, in 2018 and 2019, the number of long-term care employees in the state was over 80,000.
As people leave the field, nursing homes are receiving many COVID-19 patients who are being transferred from hospitals to complete their recovery, Goodwin said.
âWe see a lot of very sick people and we take care of them,â he said.
Goodwin testified at a public hearing last month on a House Bill 1001, which would strengthen exemptions from employer vaccination mandates. He told lawmakers the association is not opposed to the bill because nursing homes, more than anything else, need to hold workers back.
The Indiana Health Care Association is working with lawmakers to add a provision to the bill that would allow the state to maintain an expedited license for nurses, physicians and other health care workers who live outside of the state. State or who are retired or recently graduated.
Governor Eric Holcomb issued an executive decree in 2020 to allow an expedited license, but because that decree was issued as part of the public health emergency, it would expire at the end of the health emergency if it did not. is not enshrined in law.
The accelerated license has primarily been used by out-of-state professionals, often those who live just across state lines in one of the Indiana border states.
There are now about 9,500 professionals on that registry holding temporary licenses, Goodwin said. About 7,100 of them are workers outside the state.
The Indiana Health Care Association represents about 480 nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and independent residences in the state, or about 85% of the total.
Together, these establishments accommodate around 35,000 people.
In October, the association announced the results of a survey of 295 of its members, which showed that 54% use recruiting agencies to bring in workers to cover shifts and 99% schedule employees to do shifts. overtime and / or double shifts to take care of the sick.
Almost 32% of facilities said they were limiting admissions because they did not have enough staff to take on more patients.
About 80% cited the lack of candidates as the main cause of the labor shortage.