Data: 1 in 3 nursing homes in NC have personnel shortages

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly one in three North Carolina nursing homes responding to a government survey is experiencing a personnel shortage of some kind, a data analysis found.

The data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was reviewed Friday, when the state Department of Health and Human Services reported three more outbreaks at nursing homes in the state, bringing the total number of homes affected to 102.

DHHS also reports 3,801 cases of COVID-19 at those nursing homes, an increase of 164, with 562 deaths — 560 of whom were residents.

According to the federal data, 373 of the 428 nursing homes in North Carolina responded to questions about staffing shortages — either of nurses, clinical staff, aides or other staff members — during the week ending May 31.

Of those, 104 — or 27.8 percent — responded that they have a shortage in at least one of those areas. The survey found that 24 percent of nursing homes have a shortage of aides, 18 percent need more nurses, 9 percent are short in other staff and 3 percent are in need of clinical staff.

That comes as the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living’s latest push for additional contributions from Medicaid, saying the pandemic has put further pressure on already strained budgets.

Citing national numbers, the ACHA says supplies to fight COVID-19 can lead to an increase in costs of up to 103 percent, and that on average, labor costs have risen up to 18 percent. 

But with occupancy rates dropping — by nearly 10 percent across the country in the first five months of the year, the Wall Street Journal has reported — the group estimates losses of up to 23 percent — or $57 billion — nationwide.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association on Friday called those percentages “pretty representative” for the situation in our state, but did not have specific numbers.

Genesis HealthCare, which operates seven nursing homes in North Carolina — including facilities in Siler City and Mount Olive, said on its most recent earnings call that it expected a drop of nearly 15 percent in its occupancy rate from the first quarter of this year to last month.

And PruittHealth, which has 35 facilities in the state, told the Wall Street Journal that revenue is down 12 percent while labor costs have risen 7 percent when compared to the levels before COVID-19.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House select subcommittee on the coronavirus met, with chair James E. Clyburn (D-South Carolina) urging the federal government to assist with testing and personal protective equipment along with providing “strong oversight of nursing homes to ensure they have better infection control and enough staff to properly care for residents at all times.”

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