Nursing homes down 221K jobs since start of pandemic

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, November 13, 2021

A recent report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living said long-term facilities “are suffering from the worst labor crisis and job loss than any other health care sector.” Further, it stated that “nursing homes have seen employment levels drop by 14 percent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, making the industry the hardest hit in job loss than any other health care sector.”

In Brookhaven, King’s Daughters Medical Center still struggles with getting its nursing staff back up to par, but one of the city’s nursing homes says things are looking much brighter now than in the past year.

“We were really short (nurses) for a while since COVID-19,” said Diversicare of Brookhaven’s Assistant Director of Nursing Julia Riggs. “We had a hard time getting back to our staff levels, but with a new wage increase, we have hired enough CNAs and now, registered nurses.”

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Previously the business had to use agencies to hire enough staff, but word of mouth has them fully staffed now, Riggs added.

KDMC’s David Culpepper said they had 20-plus open nursing positions.

“KDMC is no different than other hospitals when it comes to nursing shortages,” he said. “When you have an exodus of nurses from your facility and others to travel nursing, it creates a shortage for every hospital.”

Culpepper added that Nov. 11 was the first day to reported that KDMC had no COVID patients in house, yet they have multiple professional opens. “Don’t get me wrong – we are very excited about having zero COVID patients, even if it’s for one day,” he said. “But the pressing issue is filling these open nursing positions.”

Comparing the latest BLS employment data released last week with pre-pandemic employment back in March 2020 shows nursing homes have lost the most jobs than any other health care sector, the report stated. Earlier this year, the AHCA/NCAL conducted a survey of long-term care providers.

The survey revealed the following:

• 86% of nursing homes and 77% of assisted living providers said their workforce situation has gotten worse in recent months

• 58% of nursing homes are limiting new admissions

• 78% nursing homes and 61 percent of assisted living communities are concerned workforce challenges might force them to close

What’s causing these staffing problems? AHCA/NCAL’s president and chief executive officer, Mark Parkinson, said these workforce challenges can be attributable to multiple factors, including burnout, professionals leaving the field, chronic Medicaid underfunding and better pay elsewhere, among other issues, the report said.

The AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year.

“While hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers and other health care facilities have reached or surpassed pre-pandemic staffing levels, nursing homes and assisted living communities are still experiencing substantial job losses according to the latest October employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),” the report stated.