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Florida faces potential long-term repercussions from nursing shortage caused by pandemic

by | Mar 5, 2021


The healthcare industry was hit hard by the recent pandemic and one repercussion may have long-term consequences affecting the quality of care Floridians receive in the future.

During the pandemic, hospitals saw nurses leave the profession at a historic rate and nursing homes, too, saw experienced care givers walk away, either because they are worried about contracting COVID, or because they needed to leave to care for their young children. Nursing home representatives said they try to host staff recruiting events, only to have no one show up.

If this trend continues, hospitals and other healthcare facilities could find themselves having to turn away patients because they don’t have the necessary staff to care for them.

Westminster Communities of Florida CFO Hank Keith told the Florida House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee this week, some of his nursing home facilities are already having to decide if they can take certain patients because of the staffing shortages.

Emmett Reed, CEO,Executive Director, Florida Health Care Association, represents nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state.  He said, “A workforce shortage plus COVID 19 has put us in great crisis.”

He told the committee there was a 7.4 percent increase in direct care staff costs this year. Those costs included overtime, Heroes’ pay, etc. He said there was also a 181 percent increase in agency staffing costs resulting from prolonged workforce shortages forcing care centers to rely on employment agencies to fill vacancies.

Keith said he needs 10 percent pay raise to retain staff and hopefully recruit more direct care staff.

He said, “I don’t know what you know about Certified Nursing Aides (CNAs), but that is the toughest job, ever, ever. It’s a very difficult job.”

Keith told the committee nursing homes are now competing with Costco and Target for employees and comparing the difficulty of being a CNA with stocking shelves or running a register, “there is just no comparison.”

The staffing challenges for hospitals are just as great.

Justin Senior, CEO, Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida told the committee “The workforce challenges ( in Florida hospitals) are tremendous. We saw nurses leaving like never before (during the pandemic).”

He and Mary Mayhew, President and CEO, Florida Hospital Association (FHA) told the committee they are worried that there is pent-up demand from patients who put off diagnostic testing and elective surgeries and when they begin returning to hospitals for those procedures, this will put and even greater strain on the limited staffs.

Mayhew said the FHA is putting together a study to analyze nursing staffing issues in the state.

“We need to understand the consequences of this pandemic in terms of indivduals who permanently left the bedside,” she said.

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