The shortage of staff in long-term care is not new. Wyoming AARP director Sam Shumway said it was because it was hard work.
âI mean, you transport people, you help them use the restroom, so there’s a high turnover,â Shumway said. “These are not generally considered to be career types of jobs.”
The industry was trying to make nursing home work more attractive by increasing wages and creating better and more incentives. But then the pandemic struck. Shumway said the pandemic hasn’t helped make work more attractive.
âThe current staff are exhausted and work long, long hours. And that doesn’t create a healthy work environment for them, or the people they care for, âsaid Shumway.
At the height of the pandemic, many people feared long-term care facilities could experience deadly epidemics and some have. Laura Moore, administrator of the Cody Regional Health Long Term Care Center, said things got so bad that some staff decided they couldn’t do it anymore.
âI think a lot of the health workers have burned out and left the field completely,â Moore said. “We had staff leave during the pandemic, not only here but in an old building where I was.”
It has not helped the industry with its personnel issues. Since the start of the pandemic, AARP has started collecting data on a monthly basis. One of these statistics is the number of establishments reporting staff shortages. As of June 2020, only 24% of long-term care facilities in the state reported staff shortages. In July, it was 37%. At Cody, they have several open positions.
âWe probably have, in the long-term care facility, maybe three to five nursing positions. And as many, if not more, CNA positions,â Moore said.
Staff on site work overtime to provide patients with the care they need. When President Biden announced last month that he would demand that nursing home staff be vaccinated or that facilities lose their federal money, it didn’t go very well.
“I am extremely concerned. And I have made it very clear that I think this is very bad policy,” said Eric Boley, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association.
âWhen the pandemic started, healthcare workers were held in such high regard. Parades and food were brought to institutions and hospitals, to celebrate the health workers who came to work, caring for these sick people. And now, almost two years later, it’s like it just doesn’t seem to have an impact anymore, that we are still doing this. You went on with life, but we are still here. And we are still fighting against it. “
Laura Moore, Administrator of Cody Regional Health Long Term Care Center
Boley said that simply mandating nursing home staff to get vaccinated gave them a loophole.
“You have the option of leaving your current employer and entering and obtaining paid employment at another establishment that does not require it.”
For Boley, the federal government must mandate all health workers or none.
Moore in Cody said it puts them in a bind. If they don’t respect the mandate, the federal money will stop coming in and that will shut them down. If they stick to the mandate, it could cost them employees.
“If this results in the departure of some staff, I don’t think it will be a mass exodus,” she said. “I think there are some people who will choose to get the vaccine. And I think there might be some who choose to leave the industry for a while and see how it all plays out.”
Just this week, Governor Mark Gordon announced he was allocating federal money to hospitals and long-term care facilities to pay for itinerant nurses or ways to retain existing employees. This will act as a band-aid for a while, but Moore said that for existing employees, money just doesn’t do the trick anymore.
“The workers are now at the point where, ‘I’m so exhausted you can offer me some extra money and I’m always going to turn down this shift because I’m just tired,'” she said. declared.
On the contrary, Moore said people need to help boost the morale of healthcare workers.
âWhen the pandemic started, healthcare workers were held in such high regard. Parades and food were brought to institutions and hospitals, to celebrate the healthcare workers who came to work, caring for these sick people, âsaid Moore. “And now, almost two years later, it’s like it just doesn’t seem to have an impact anymore, that we still do. You went on with life, but we’re still here. And we’re still struggling. against this.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will most likely release guidelines for the tenure at the end of this month.