ASBURY, Iowa (KCRG) — While long-term care facilities had suffered from staff shortages long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic has exacerbated those shortages.
“You experience more staff absent because they are either sick, or simply because of the extenuating factors of staying at home,” said Janet Warren, executive director of Luther Manor. “We notice that we are all participating and we are all picking up where we are needed.”
Warren explained that nursing homes follow the guidelines of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She cited a recent change to the guideline that says workers can now return to work seven days after testing positive for COVID-19 rather than 10 days afterward, which has helped reduce the shortages.
But the executive director said that regardless of the staff shortage, ensuring residents remain safe and healthy is their number one priority.
“What we do is we can limit some of our non-essential tasks and other activities so that, again, we have as much time as we can, focus on what needs to be done, the most important thing is infection control and cleaning, wiping along those high-touch surfaces,” Warren explained.
At the Hawkeye Care Center, employees said they are also seeing the impact of a staff shortage, with those who can get to work putting in extra weight.
“They might pick up hours, they might work double shifts, they might go home a little earlier because they know another shift needs help,” said administrator Tracey Long. “It really is all hands on deck and so is the leadership team here at Hawkeye. People see me, I help make beds, I help disinfect places that are touched a lot.”
Long explained that they follow CMS guidelines when it comes to allowing visits, and while she said it involves having large numbers of people going in and out of the building, she added that they feel they can control the risk.
“I would never want to go back to limiting visits,” she confessed. “That was just so damaging to the health and mental wellbeing of the residents and even the staff.”
Both Luther Manor and Hawkeye Care Center are actively trying to fill their open positions. The staff said their main focus is on hiring more nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). They encouraged interested parties to contact their offices.
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