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Survey: PA Long-Term Care Industry in Crisis

by Emily Scott, Keystone State News Connection

Oct 13, 2021
Nurse holding hand of senior man in rest home. Doctor helping old patient with Alzheimer's disease. Shot of a caregiver helping a senior man. Care Worker Helping Senior Man

Amid staffing shortages at Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities, there are growing fears many vulnerable older adults and their caretakers will be left to fend for themselves in the event of closures.

A recent survey of 82 operators and administrators of nursing homes, personal-care homes and assisted-living communities showed nearly 40% said they cannot afford to keep facilities open more than another year.

Many of the issues stem from a shortage of long-term care workers, who have experienced low wages and burnout during the pandemic. A majority of facilities have had to limit new admissions in the last six months as well.

Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which conducted the survey among its members, said the results are alarming.

“They are being forced to turn potential residents away because they don’t have enough workers to care for those new residents and to continue providing care,” Shamberg observed. “In one of the oldest states, in terms of our population, that should be a real concern for every single Pennsylvanian.”

Wages in Pennsylvania long-term care facilities vary, with registered nurses making an average of $37 an hour and certified nursing assistants making an average of $15 an hour.

For respondents of the survey, more than 80% said maintaining a workforce is their biggest challenge.

Shamberg pointed out one of the issues facing facility operators is 70% of care in state nursing homes is paid for by Medicaid. However, costs have risen while Medicaid reimbursement rates remain stagnant.

“That Medicaid reimbursement allows them to provide care, but it also allows them to increase wages, to offer benefits,” Shamberg explained. “And until we see a meaningful investment from state leaders, we won’t be able to then invest in our workers.”

Reimbursement rates fall short by an estimated $50 per day, according to the association. Shamberg noted another way for Pennsylvania to save long-term care in the state is by passing legislation to cut some red tape and regulatory hoops that hamper entering a career in the industry.

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