Over 1/3 of Ky. nursing homes have reported nurse shortages during pandemic; 1/6 have been short during 4 weeks or more

Pine Meadows Post Acute nursing home in Lexington had 14 weeks of nurse shortages, 160 cases of the virus and 26 deaths from it. (Photo by Silas Walker, Lexington Herald-Leader)

More than a third of Kentucky’s nursing homes have reported nursing-staff shortages at least once during the pandemic that has killed hundreds of their residents, one out of six have reported shortages for at least four weeks, and “Some reported nurse shortages for up to 18 weeks,” reports John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“In most instances, the same nursing homes that disclosed a shortage of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses also reported a shortage of nurse aides, the workers who give basic care to residents, such as feeding and bathing, usually for less than $14 an hour,” Cheves reports. Then he quotes Toby Edelman, senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a national nonprofit that lobbies for better treatment of the elderly and disabled.

“The most important thing that determines the quality of any nursing home is its staffing, whether it has enough staff,” Edelman said, adding that in poorly staffed homes, residents can lie in bed all day and get pressure sores, or fall and hurt themselves; and rushed employees make careless medication errors and fail to prevent infections from spreading.

Nursing homes’ state lobby, the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, told Cheves many nurses and aides have quit this year, citing child-care demands when day-care centers closed and schools went to remote instruction; fear of getting sick; and worry about bringing the virus to relatives they care for.

KAHCF President Betsy Johnson told Cheves that nursing homes need to offer higher pay, which would require more reimbursement from the federal-state Medicaid program. Cheves notes, “A national study released in August found that the lower a nursing home’s quality of care rating going into the pandemic, the more likely it was to report a nurse shortage during the pandemic.”

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