Nursing homes and assisted living facilities face persistent staffing challenge | Coronavirus

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MADISON (WKOW) — Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have faced outbreaks of COVID-19, rising supply costs and staffing shortages over the past two years. Now a nursing home administrator says at least some of that is improving.

Danielle Sigler is the Administrator of Ingleside Communities in Mount Horeb. She says COVID-19 cases aren’t having as big an impact as they did 24 months ago.

“In our first outbreak, there were a lot of us, myself included, working on the floor, working all kinds of hours, just to meet the needs of the residents,” she said. “Now we’re able to pretty much keep things stable, and there aren’t a lot of intense changes happening.”

Sigler attributed much of this improvement to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.

“Before the vaccines, people were still sick on day 20 sometimes, and we don’t see that anymore,” she said.

Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows that nearly 40% of fully immunized workers in Wisconsin nursing homes received a booster shot. This is more than the national average of 34.6%.

But keeping workers healthy hasn’t completely solved staffing issues, as the industry still faces a shortage of workers.

“Across the board, we’re having a very hard time recruiting and retaining staff in assisted living facilities,” said Mike Pochowski, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Assisted Living Association.

He said the industry is struggling to compete with other jobs offering higher salaries, and Sigler said many current staff are struggling with burnout.

However, the two said they were optimistic about what the coming months would bring.

“Due to the availability of vaccines [and because] PPE is more available, we can feel a little more peace from the chaos that was happening before,” Sigler said.

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