I am very proud of the care teams in Maryland skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers and on assisted living campuses. You have been diligently and successfully fighting the Delta surge of the COVID-19 virus. Our sector has been holding steady with outbreaks in about 80 skilled nursing rehabilitation centers and about 50 assisted living campuses. During previous surges, we often saw outbreaks in around 200 or more skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers.
The vaccines work. Infectious disease control and prevention practices are key and work as well. We started in a very good place compared to many states in terms of employee and resident vaccination, and those numbers have been improving. Increasing vaccination percentages in rural communities will remain a challenge; teams are small, reluctance is high, staffing shortages are more extreme. All of that said, now is NOT time for any of us to let down our guard – there will be future variants.
With Governor Hogan’s third-dose orders and the approval of the FDA and the CDC, much energy in the next couple of months will be focused on getting boosters into the arms of Marylander most in need.
The number one worry right now in healthcare in general and nursing homes in specific is the workforce shortage. On this, we have been working with the Maryland Department of Health, our colleague associations, and the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA) to do anything we can to help with workforce issues.
As we shared yesterday, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) released a letter to hospital and nursing home leaders regarding staffing flexibilities and the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) released a letter regarding accelerated pathways for nursing students to complete their programs and enter in to the workforce as soon as possible.
Per these letters, MDH is allowing emergency CNAs/GNAs to practice and is authorizing licensed nursing staff from out of state to practice in Maryland. MHEC is encouraging higher education programs to graduate qualified nursing students in an expedited fashion.
As with the rest of our nation, Maryland is facing a general workforce crisis across all sectors. The workforce crisis in healthcare that predates the pandemic has been worsened by the pandemic. Tens of thousands of licensed medical support and nursing staff across all sectors did not renew their medical licenses to work this year.
In our HFAM conducted research here in Maryland, we know even from limited verified data:
- Agency staffing hourly wages have risen by 40 to 50 percent.
- The use of agency staff in nursing homes increased by two and a half times above pre-pandemic levels.
- Direct hourly wages increased by 5-7 percent (excluding hourly differentials and bonuses), which can be significant.
National Survey: Nearly Every U.S. Nursing Home And Assisted Living Community Is Facing A Workforce Crisis
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and long term care facilities across the country, released a survey of nursing home and assisted living providers across the U.S. Results from the survey highlight an urgent need for Congress to address the labor shortage facing the long term care industry.
Key findings include:
- 86 percent of nursing homes and 77 percent of assisted living providers said their workforce situation has gotten worse over the last three months.
- Nearly every nursing home (99 percent) and assisted living facility (96 percent) in the U.S. is facing a staffing shortage. 59 percent of nursing homes and nearly one-third of assisted living providers are experiencing a high level of staffing shortages.
- More than 7 out of 10 nursing homes and assisted living communities said a lack of qualified candidates and unemployment benefits have been the biggest obstacles in hiring new staff.
- Due to these shortages, nearly every nursing home and assisted living community is asking staff to work overtime or extra shifts. Nearly 70 percent of nursing homes are having to hire expensive agency staff. 58 percent of nursing homes are limiting new admissions.
- 78 percent of nursing homes and 71 percent of assisted living facilities are concerned workforce challenges might force them to close. More than one-third of nursing homes are very concerned about having to shut down their facility(ies).
“The survey demonstrates the severe workforce challenges long term care providers are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Too many facilities are struggling to hire and retain staff that are needed to serve millions of vulnerable residents,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “Lawmakers across the country must prioritize long term care, and that begins with providing resources to address workforce challenges. When facilities have the means to offer competitive wages and training programs, workers will follow. We have laid out key proposals in our Care for Our Seniors Act, which will allow us to boost our workforce, but without the help from Congress and state legislators, this will not be possible.”
Parkinson said the reconciliation package currently under construction is an appropriate vehicle for Congress to fund a long term solution to addressing chronic staffing shortages in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.
“Congress has the opportunity right now, through budget reconciliation, to include meaningful investments in long term care, which will help address key staffing challenges. Our caregivers are the backbone of long term care, and they deserve the full support of our lawmakers. We cannot allow facilities to close because of these challenges, which will directly impact residents and their families, especially when lawmakers have the means to help solve this dire situation,” concluded Parkinson.
Together we will navigate long-term solutions to these challenges in terms of funding and reforms—which will included state and federal proactive advocacy with the Maryland General Assembly, Governor Hogan, and our MD Congressional delegation.