1 in 4 nursing homes across NC still reporting staff shortages

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — More than one in four nursing homes in North Carolina that responded to a government survey are still experiencing staff shortages, a CBS17.com data analysis found.

CBS17.com reviewed data Wednesday that was released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the week ending Aug. 2, the most recent figures available.

According to the federal data, 407 of the 428 nursing homes in the state responded to questions about staff shortages and 113 of them — 28 percent — reported that they don’t have enough personnel in one of four key areas: nursing staff, clinical staff, aides or other staff.

The numbers have shown no improvement since June, when previous analyses by CBS17.com found 104 of 373 homes — also 28 percent — responding to the survey reported staff shortages.

CMS is conducting weekly surveys to assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on nursing homes across the country. 

Those homes have been particularly susceptible to COVID-19 outbreaks with older, vulnerable residents living in close proximity to one another.

According to state Department of Health and Human Services data, more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in the 10-day period between Aug. 8-18 — though that climb is at least partly a result of the state’s initiative to test every person who lives or works in a nursing home at least once in July or early August.

In its most recent biweekly report, DHHS on Tuesday reported active outbreaks at 187 nursing homes across the state — an increase of five from Aug. 14 — with 2,803 of the 4,474 active cases at those homes involving residents and 1,671 involving staff members. The next update is scheduled for Friday.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living says 55 percent of nursing homes across the country are operating at a loss because of the costs associated with the COVID-19 response, including personal protective equipment, staffing, testing and what the trade group says is an underfunding of Medicaid.

The federal survey data shows North Carolina’s nursing homes were most in need of aides, with nearly one-quarter of responding homes indicating a shortage. More than 20 percent said they needed more nursing staff, less than 2 percent needed more clinical staff and more than 10 percent indicated a shortage of unspecified other staff.

Homes were also asked about supply shortages, with 110 of the homes responding — or, 27 percent — saying they don’t have any N95 masks at all and another 40 homes saying they don’t have enough to last a week.

Gowns were also in relatively short supply, with 45 of the 407 homes saying they don’t have any of them and another 27 saying they don’t have a week’s supply.

And five of the facilities said they don’t have any hand sanitizer at all and another nine said their current supply wouldn’t last a week. That’s an improvement from June, when 28 homes reported a total lack of the product.

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