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Health care leaders: Connecticut nursing homes face severe staffing shortages

Resident Patricia McFarlane (right) talks to Jodi White, director of marketing and admissions at Beechwood Rehabilitation and Nursing Care in New London, Connecticut.
Yehyun Kim
/
CTMirror.org
Resident Patricia McFarlane (right) talks to Jodi White, director of marketing and admissions at Beechwood Rehabilitation and Nursing Care in New London, Connecticut.

Health care leaders in Connecticut reported a severe staffing shortage in the state’s long-term care facilities at a meeting of the Nursing Home Financial Advisory Committee on Wednesday.

“Nursing homes have been reporting all across the state, for many weeks now, an inability to meet their fundamental requirements to staff sufficiently to address the care needs of their residents,” said Matthew Barrett, president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, the state’s largest association of long-term health care organizations.

Lawrence Santilli, chair of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, attributed the shortage to a combination of factors, including COVID-19 illness or exposure, burnout and low wages. He said that nursing pools, groups of “floater” nurses who work at health care facilities as needed, were also partly responsible. They sometimes charge exorbitant wages that outpace in-house staff compensation, he said.

“We need the pools, so they are then allowed to charge whatever they want. I had one pool charge me $84 an hour for a nurse’s aide,” Santilli said. “This is war.”

One committee member proposed that the new standard wage for in-house nurse’s aides should be around $25 per hour.

Barrett said the staffing shortage is also keeping long-term care facilities from returning to full occupancy. He reported a 78% occupancy level across Connecticut nursing homes, which is 6% higher than the national average. Still, some state facilities have had to turn away potential residents.

“Many nursing homes report an inability to take admissions across the state. We hear that more and more on a daily basis,” said Barrett.

The committee plans to study nurse wages to determine whether raises are needed.

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