Dubuque County nursing homes are feeling the impact of rising COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages

ASBURY, Iowa (KCRG) – Even though long-term care facilities were experiencing staffing shortages long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic has exacerbated those shortages.

“You’re seeing more staff who are away because they’re sick or just because of the mitigating factors they stayed home for,” said Janet Warren, executive director of Luther Manor. “We find that we all participate and we all take where we are needed.”

Warren explained that nursing homes follow guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She mentioned a recent change in guidance saying workers can now return to work seven days after testing positive for COVID-19 instead of ten days after, which has helped ease shortages.

But the chief executive said that regardless of staff shortages, ensuring residents stay safe and healthy is their number one priority.

“What we do is we can limit some of our non-essential tasks, other activities so that we preserve, again, as much time as possible by focusing on what needs to be done, the most important being infection control and cleaning, wiping on those high-touch surfaces,” Warren explained.

At Hawkeye Care Center, staff said they are also seeing the impact of understaffing, with those who can come to work having to put on extra weight.

“They can take hours, they can work a double shift, they can go home a little early because they know another shift needs help,” administrator Tracey said. Long. “It’s all really on deck and that includes the management team here at Hawkeye. People see me, I help make beds, I help disinfect high touch areas.

Long explained that they were following CMS advice when it came to allowing visits, and, while she said it was about having a large number of people coming in and out of the building, she added that they believe they can control the risk.

“I would never want to go back to limiting visits again,” she confessed. “It was so detrimental to the health and mental well-being of residents and even staff.”

Luther Manor and Hawkeye Care Center are actively trying to fill their vacancies. Staff said their main goal was to hire more nurses and certified practical nurses (CPNs). They encouraged those interested in the positions to contact their offices.

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