Letter to the Editor: Healthcare system experiencing historic staffing shortage

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Dear Editor:

If you or your loved one have not needed a nursing home or hospital care, you may be unaware that the healthcare industry is experiencing a historical staffing crisis.  This workforce shortage is acting as a barrier by forcing healthcare providers to limit access to care in our community and nationwide.

Valley View has voluntarily closed 3 units (90 beds) due to a lack of being able to staff them properly. This factor, combined with a 50-person waiting list for long-term care placement, means that some residents and families in Orange County seeking a nursing home placement may be forced to place their loved ones in a
facility in neighboring counties, much farther from home.

Healthcare access is vital in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of disease and illness. It is heartbreaking as an Administrator to turn people away seeking placement for a loved one. As a leader and healthcare professional, I never envisioned this would be my experience. Quality patient care can be
negatively impacted if healthcare providers choose to admit more patients than staffing levels can support.

Furthermore, healthcare staff are burned out physically and emotionally after grappling with COVID for two-plus years.

Healthcare workers are true heroes. Thank you for your bravery and commitment to our industry and to all patients you served. Please continue to advocate for your patients, and colleagues and encourage new workers to consider rewarding careers in the healthcare field. The next time you are in a healthcare setting as a patient or a visitor, please be sure to share your support and thanks with the healthcare staff you come across, they deserve it and so much more.

Unfortunately, since nursing homes receive most of their funding through Medicaid (NYS/Federal Funding) and Medicare (Federal Funding) we must rely on our NYS Governor, NYS Senators, NYS Assemblyman, and Congress members (US Senators and Representatives) to adopt reasonable policies to get us through this
crisis and so far, our NYS representatives have failed us. Two years into COVID and recognizing the historic staffing crisis we are facing;

  • State leaders continue to offer punitive solutions for staffing instead of proactive
    ones.
  • They have chosen to adopt minimum staffing level regulations that many nursing homes cannot meet.
  • Furthermore, they recently chose to penalize healthcare providers for mandating overtime.

Where do they think the workforce for all the vacated CNAs, LPNs, and RNs
positions are coming from? Agency staffing is not supplementing our workforce pool in Orange County currently.  Do they think we want to mandate staff for overtime? We simply have no choice.  Sometimes it is our only choice to ensure proper care for our patients.

Did you know that some RN college programs must limit the number of nursing students entering the program due to lack of faculty for teaching? Did you know that even before COVID there were clinical staffing issues across the healthcare continuum? It is time for real leadership amongst our state and federal elected officials with real proactive solutions instead of punitive ones.

Did you know that NYS included health workers’ retention bonuses in their 2022-23 budget? A good start, however, healthcare providers are still awaiting on the appropriate guidelines from the New York State Dept. of Health to pay out these bonuses. Many opportunities in NYS 2022-23 budget were missed or not
implemented including; authorizing CNAs as medication aides to perform certain medication-related tasks in nursing homes; did not include proposals to participate in the Interstate Physician and Nurse Licensure Compacts, which would have enabled physicians and nurses licensed in more than 35 participating
states to practice in New York; did not include a proposal to allow any applicant for licensure in a qualified high-need health care profession who documents and attests that they hold a license in good standing from another state to request a temporary practice permit that would allow them to practice in New York under
the supervision of a New York licensee.

Where are the programs/funding to encourage new workers attend school to become a CNA, LPN, or RN or to start in the healthcare field? We must have reasonable policies that provide us with both immediate and long-term solutions.

The next time you need care at a nursing home or hospital, I hope you do not experience any of the issues outlined. The COVID pandemic serves as a reminder we must adapt quickly and deploy solutions to strengthen the healthcare system now and for future generations. If this sounds like an SOS from a struggling health care provider, it is.

Sincerely,

Laurence LaDue
Administrator
Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation
Goshen, NY

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Mid-Hudson News.