• 79°

Nursing home shortage hits Chambers County

There is a nationwide staffing shortage among nursing homes. A June survey from American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living found that of the 616 nursing homes they surveyed, 94 percent said they were experiencing staffing shortages. Nursing homes in the Chambers County area are no exception to the trend.

Amber Griggs, administrator at Valley Park Manor Assisted Living & Memory Care, didn’t even have time for an interview because she was doing the work of multiple staff members.

“I’m just running around like a chicken with my head cut off due to the staffing shortage,” she said.

Director of Nursing Rene Colvin said that Lafayette Nursing Home is “definitely” being affected by the nationwide shortage and estimated that it has about eight openings for full-time certified nursing assistants.

[The shortage happened] probably two months into COVID, before the summer of 2020,” she said.

Colvin attributes the shortage partially to COVID-19 and partially to enhanced unemployment benefits disincentivizing work. She said the CNAs who do work at the nursing home work long hours.

“We have CNAs here that work 12, 15 hours day-to-day, days in a row,” she said. “In a forty hour week, we have some CNAs that work 60 plus hours.”

Colvin is concerned that a vaccine mandate for nursing home workers could drive away even more workers.

“I’m all for the mandate because I feel that we are here as healthcare professionals, and we [should] protect our staff and our resident population,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with anybody getting it. But if they’re going to mandate just the nursing homes, that’s going to cause what staff that we do have to just go elsewhere. I feel like if we’re going to have a mandate, it needs to [cover] all of healthcare like hospitals and hospices, not just the nursing homes.”

Colvin’s fear is echoed by other nursing homes nationwide. In August, President Joe Biden announced that in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding, nursing homes would have to require their staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“If you visit, live or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees,” Biden said in a speech posted on whitehouse.gov.

According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicaid and Medicare funding pays for care at over 15,000 nursing homes in the country.

By Sunday, Aug. 22, 62 percent of U.S. nursing home staff were fully vaccinated, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On the same day, 83 percent of residents were.

Charlene Harrington, a professor emerita at the University of California, San Francisco, said that 75 percent of nursing homes had staffing shortages before the COVID-19 pandemic.