According to a survey by the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA).

Dozens of association members responded to a September survey to measure the state of nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes in Pennsylvania as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Members who took part in the survey said they have lost nearly 20% of their membership since February 2020.

According to CareerLink’s list of job openings, there are more than three dozen jobs available in area nursing homes. Maria Joseph Manor in Danville has nine jobs listed, while Nottingham Village has seven. There are also openings for Milton Rehabilitation and Nursing, Watsontown Rehabilitation and Nursing, Mountain View Nursing Home in Northumberland County, RiverWoods outside de Lewisburg and Grandview Nursing and Rehabilitation near Danville.

“The long-term care workforce crisis was a concern long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are now seeing the real consequence: Our vulnerable seniors in Pennsylvania are turned away when they seek care. care, ”said Zach Shamberg, President and CEO of PHCA. “A direct care workforce shortage means that a state with one of the country’s oldest populations will not be able to meet its obligations to our elderly, forcing elderly patients to stay in the home. hospital or returning home without the resources and support they need. “

The state Department of Health reports that 76,967 residents of Pennsylvania long-term care facilities and 16,413 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020 at 1,634 facilities. Locally, there have been 2,286 cases related to the Valley facilities.

Todd Andrews, president of the community continuing care retirement division of Asbury Communities, owner of RiverWoods, said that even with an all-employee vaccination mandate that goes into effect on October 30, the staffing was adequate.

He said 84 percent of RiverWoods staff are already vaccinated.

“Given the relatively small number of unvaccinated employees today, we do not anticipate staffing issues,” he said. “RiverWoods has not been immune to the national workforce shortage, but we have used a variety of strategies to ensure residents receive the care and services they expect and deserve. We have a lot of very dedicated people. The associates still have a week or so to receive their first dose of a two-dose or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and we hope others will choose this route. We have a process where staff can request religious or medical exemptions, but overall those numbers are small.

“Since the requirement was announced, we have constantly told those who are not vaccinated that we appreciate them and hope that they will choose to stay with us, but that we have to push for health and well-being. residents first. “

RiverWoods staff appear to be the exception to the rule, according to the survey.

Due to understaffing, 74% of those polled – including 85% of the 50 nursing homes that responded to the survey – said they had had to limit or suspend admissions in the past six months. This prompted nearly 50 percent of respondents to create a waiting list for seniors in need of care.

Looming COVID-19 vaccine mandates further fuel concerns about labor shortages. According to the PHCA, 34% of Pennsylvania nursing home workers – at least 32,000 employees – are unvaccinated, reflecting the state’s population vaccination rate. At that time, suppliers will be forced to lay off unvaccinated workers.

Andrews said Asbury Park held five raffles of $ 1,000 at each of the facilities overseen by the company for workers who received at least one injection.

“Since the requirement was announced, we have always told those who are not vaccinated that we appreciate them and hope that they will choose to stay with us, but that we have to push for health and well-being. residents first, ”Andrews said. “Our leadership team and nurse educators work hard to build trust and have open conversations that address each person’s unique concerns. This is a new vaccine and a new world we are navigating in, and we need to listen and respect the questions that arise. “

To help alleviate some of the shortages, Senator Judy Ward proposed SB 729, supported by the PHCA. The bill would allow online study of the theoretical and theoretical components of the state-approved Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training program and blended delivery for the laboratory or clinical component of the training. The state-approved nurse aide training program currently includes at least 120 hours of classroom and clinical training.

“This review allows more people interested in becoming an CNA to consider it by taking online courses and helping to address a long-standing problem of labor shortages facing the nursing home industry. is facing, ”Ward said. “Online education gives individuals the ability to take classes on their own schedule and the convenience of completing homework at home.

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