Pandemic Highlights Challenges Facing Pennsylvania Nursing Community | Pennsylvania


(The Center Square) – The nearly 33,000 deaths from COVID-19 of residents in long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania are drawing more attention to regulations for resident care and nursing homes.

The biggest problem is staffing, according to testimony at a recent meeting of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

“The problem is that all health care facilities, whether they are care facilities, hospitals or home care, we are all competing for the same pool of workers,” said Dennis Biondo, Allegheny County Executive Director for Kane Community Living Centers. “You can donate more money, and the next nursing home across the street will donate a little more to get that same person.”

The work is hard, and many agree that the people who enter the field have a certain vocation. Keisha Williams has been in the business since 2012 and says she sees people leaving for other jobs.

“This job has been named the most dangerous job in the country,” Williams told the committee. “And yet, on the whole, we are getting poverty wages. We lack affordable health care. Our employers put up a “Heroes” sign in front of our buildings, but we were punished for speaking out when told to reuse soiled gowns and masks. “

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, said Georgia Goodman, director of government affairs for LeadingAge PA.

“We need a dynamic and scalable approach,” she said. “We need partnerships with the Department of Education and more institutions that educate to provide exposure to aging services with programs that support the introductory needs and knowledge of nursing assistants. These programs should be available using modern technology and offered through flexible online methods. “

Regulation must also be addressed, according to the testimonies of the panelists. The regulations were not intended to “create meaningful change,” Biondi said. Surveillance is provided by surveys from the Pennsylvania Department of Health which Biondi classified as “just a way to tick boxes.”

The lack of regulation affects patient care, according to Williams.

“Right now in Pennsylvania homes are only required to provide each resident with 2.7 hours of care per day,” Williams said. “It’s less than three hours a day to wash, dress, feed and care for your loved one. The AARP, the federal government, and dozens of academics and advocates agree that the minimum needed to provide patients with a safe environment and quality care is 4.1 hours per day. Pennsylvania shouldn’t do less.

Funding formulas need to be changed to help nursing homes cover costs, panelists said. The coronavirus aid, relief and economic security law money has not been distributed in a way that provides the most aid, according to Nick Vizzoca, president and CEO of Vincentian.

“The major acute care providers received proportionately more funding from the CARES Act than smaller organizations like Vincentian, because the funding for the CARES Act was calculated by Medicare beds, not Medicaid beds,” Vizzoca said. in his testimony. “During the pandemic, operators who depend on Medicaid funding are most in need of relief. According to a recent analysis of the RKL Medicaid funding gap, the medical assistance reimbursement gap for nursing home operators in Pennsylvania is $ 631 million per year. “

The problems facing the nursing home industry will not end with the pandemic, according to Senator Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny.

“We need to do more to protect the health, safety and emotional well-being of our seniors, and hearing first-hand from the people who do this work every day is a key part of creating a legislative policy that will provide the necessary support. to achieve those goals, ”said Williams.


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