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In the wake of the pandemic, more healthcare staffing shortages surface

Survey raises future concerns for nursing homes.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Governor Hochul says despite the concerns about her COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, no healthcare facility in the state has been forced to close with staffing issues from those who refused to get the shots.

But overall the healthcare industry, especially nursing homes, has been hard hit with the labor shortage just like other sectors of the economy.

Charles Hayes, who is Marketing and Communications Vice President for the Elderwood group of nursing homes, says "All of us in senior care is navigating this situation and we have been since the early part of the pandemic."

But now the crew of employees that they are navigating through the turbulent seas of COVID may be somewhat smaller with staffing shortages just like restaurants, hotels, and other businesses.

However, when you're talking about caring for the elderly in a nursing home - it's direr. 

In fact, the American Health Care Association and affiliated National Center for Assisted Living recently surveyed its 14-thousand member nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They found that 99 percent were facing a staffing shortage, 58 percent were actually limiting new admissions of patients or long-term residents, and 78 percent were concerned that staffing issues could eventually force them to close.

Part of the issue according to Hayes is competition for nurses who have more employment options now in the legal. tech, and consulting fields as opposed to the demanding field of healthcare which he likens to a "calling" for people dedicated to caring for others. 

Hayes points out, "For many, it's another career opportunity. So if you can get paid more to work in a less intense situation - a lot of people are choosing to do so."

And while Hayes says Elderwood diligently tries to retain employees and make itself very competitive for hiring good, dedicated staffers. it's very challenging to do so on the wage scale with a certain reality. He says "Medicaid doesn't even cover the cost of a day - the daily cost of nursing home care.  So to be able to compete on wages with organizations that offer tips, and bonuses, and higher starting pay because they can do that based on economies of scale and production and volume, we can't compete with that."

Hayes says the industry is trying to stem the health care labor drain with more community group initiatives offering medical training for the disadvantaged with the future goal of advancement and a more lucrative career in healthcare. 

But only time will see if it works amidst the growing demand for nursing home space and care from the aging population.