RI nursing homes still face staffing shortages as mandate looms

EAST PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – Nursing homes across Rhode Island are against the clock when it comes to getting their staffing levels where they need to be.

As facilities across the state face labor shortages, a new law setting long-term care standards takes effect next month, which includes a staffing mandate.

According to the latest employment report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing and residential care centers lost 11,000 jobs in November.

“They’re overworked, they’re burnt out, so it’s hard to try to recruit and get new workers,” said Jim Nyberg, executive director of LeadingAgeRI.

Nyberg said a recent survey of nursing home staffing in Rhode Island found that there were more than 1,900 positions open in long-term care facilities, while 28 facilities had to closing rooms or entire units because they were unable to staff them.

“It’s not just a workforce issue, it’s become an access-to-care issue,” Nyberg added.

12 News has reached out to some facilities to find out what they are dealing with.

“Caregiver recruitment and retention is an issue that every health care provider in the state and region is wrestling with right now for a number of reasons, and nursing home staff recruitment has always been difficult,” said Tim Brown, spokesperson for Athena Health Care. Systems, said in a statement.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this challenge,” Brown continued. “Summit Commons, along with most nursing homes, assisted living centers and hospitals state and nationwide continue to struggle to recruit all levels of staff to provide care.”

Jefferey Jacomowitz, spokesperson for Oak Hill Center, Bannister Center and Kingston Center, told 12 News that they “work with nursing agencies to get people in where and when they need them,” adding that all three establishments offer bonus days for staff members who want to earn extra money.

Rod Gauvin, owner of Alpine Nursing Home in Coventry, said retirement was a big factor.

“Losing even one member of staff who had years of experience hurts,” he said.

Gauvin said he had lost only five nurses since the start of the pandemic and the reasons ranged from refusing to get vaccinated to retiring.

“Out of those five, I would say three of them were older who had some experience and it’s hard to replace that,” Gauvin added.

There are other reasons the industry is losing workers, according to Nyberg.

“The number one issue is funding, which unfortunately has been an issue in the industry for some time, but has been exacerbated by COVID,” he said. “It’s a multi-faceted problem that doesn’t have a single solution. It involves a combination of things: funding, workforce development and related measures. »

The new law provides funds to increase salaries and help recruit and retrain staff. However, Nyberg said if suppliers fail to reach a certain number of workers on time, they could be financially penalized.

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