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Thousands waiting for nursing home care in Pa. because of worker shortage, report says

An average of about 2,000 people per day are on waiting lists to enter a nursing home in Pennsylvania, largely due to homes being unable to use beds because of staffing shortages, according to a report.

“It is clear our access to care crisis will not go away until our workforce crisis is first addressed. At the same time providers are facing historic workforce shortages, our aging population is rapidly increasing, with the number of Pennsylvania adults 85 and older expected to nearly double between now and 2040,” said Zach Shamberg, the president of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, a trade group representing for-profit nursing homes.

Pennsylvania has about 680 skilled nursing homes.

  • 57% of homes have beds that are unused because of a lack of caregivers;

  • 31% of the homes have 21 more openings for certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses;

  • 81% are using agency-employee staff to fill open positions.

The association said government action is needed to expand the workforce available to nursing homes.

It further said the minimum level of direct care per day required in Pennsylvania will increase later this year. The federal government also is considering new standards that would require more care for nursing home residents.

Homes may find it impossible to add the staff needed to meet the requirements, and may have to discharge some residents or shut down, according to the association.

LeadingAge PA, a trade association representing non-profit nursing homes, on Wednesday also raised concerns about possible federal pressure to increase staffing levels.

A letter to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. says in part:

“We agree that there has been an undeniable workforce crisis in recent years. However, establishing a federal minimum staffing requirement is not the most appropriate way to address this issue and would likely prove to be a detriment to quality that further restricts access to care for those who need it most. Before any staffing mandate can be reasonably considered, we must recognize that providers are in crisis and residents’ access to care is at risk, due in large part to historic underfunding and a workforce crisis that pre-dated the pandemic.”

This article first appeared in PennLive/Patriot-News.


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