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Crain’s New York Business: 2/4/22 Op-ed – “We Must Rebuilt the Long Term Care Workforce”

Op-ed: We must rebuild the long-term-care workforce

Michael Balboni

When the Covid-19 pandemic ripped through our state, it deepened a crisis that was already facing New York’s nursing homes. Prior to the pandemic, the state stopped investing in long-term care. This ill-advised decision made it harder for facilities to pay competitive wages, which in turn led to a hemorrhaging workforce. To make matters worse, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York actually cut Medicaid funding right at the beginning of the pandemic. These short-sighted policies have created a catastrophic storm for nursing homes in the last two years.

If Gov. Kathy Hochul has her way, this is all about to change. The governor’s executive budget reinvests in our health care workforce at levels not seen in decades: $10 billion in health care spending, the largest in the state’s history. It could be just the shot in the arm that long-term-care facilities need to rebuild and develop in a post-Covid era.

And just in time too. The state is facing its greatest shortage of health care workers in history, all while our population continues to age. New York nursing homes have a turnover rate of 94%, with most staff opting to work in retail in positions that have traditionally paid far less. Meanwhile, facilities across the state are holding their collective breath each week, praying they’ll have enough staff to provide care. This is particularly the case on the weekends, when ensuring adequate staffing has become next to impossible.
But the real solution goes beyond dollars and cents. Getting talented people to join this workforce will require convincing them that this is incredibly important work that can lead to a fulfilling future beyond the entry-level job. That’s why I’m encouraged to see additional initiatives proposed by Hochul that will support educational opportunities that lead to career advancement. It’s not enough to get new workers in the door; we have to keep them and develop a workforce with the experience to support New York’s growing ranks of seniors.

In order to turn the staffing crisis around, the industry and the state need to partner together and get the message out about the importance of long-term care to our communities and the increased wages and career opportunities that come with this work. Failure to do so could result in a total collapse of the industry, leaving tens of thousands of health care workers without jobs and vulnerable seniors without adequate care. Let us use the impact of Covid-19 as a lesson in why investment in long-term care must remain a priority.

By promoting and supporting long-term care in New York, we can make a strong long-term plan for tomorrow’s workforce.

Michael Balboni is executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association.

Albany Times Union, November 7, 2021

OPINION

“Nursing homes set to fail”

Michael Balboni

The state of New York can mandate the COVID vaccination for any and all involved in health care. What it can’t do is mandate that new employees join this critical workforce.

The recent concerns about unvaccinated health care workers walking off the job en masse because of the governor’s mandate turned out to be unfounded. But this result could still become a ruinous reality when the new staffing ratios law for New York nursing homes takes effect in several months. The question now becomes: How will the nursing home industry meet these new requirements when it can barely attract sufficient numbers of staff now?

Without a comprehensive workforce development plan that has been established and supported by our leaders in Albany, New York nursing homes are being positioned to fail.

Although the pandemic exacerbated a staffing shortage, the struggle for nursing homes to find qualified employees began long before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not just a New York problem either. Seventy-five percent of nursing homes in the United States have demonstrated they do not have enough staff to meet this recommendation. And that statistic was recorded in 2016 when the circumstances were far less dire.

Nearly every nursing home in the U.S. is struggling to find staffing today, with 99 percent facing a shortage according to a September poll conducted by the American Health Care Association. And as the pandemic has gone on, the staffing shortage has only intensified. According to an Associated Press review of federal data, 32 percent of nursing homes had worse staffing levels in June compared to the start of the pandemic, demonstrating that the exodus has gained momentum with time.

Simply put, recruiting and retaining nursing home staff is the urgent priority.

Look beneath the surface of the crisis and you will see that this situation has been developing for some time. Financially speaking, minimum wage levels make it difficult to justify working as a certified nurse assistant when it’s only a little more than one can make working in a service industry. Combine that with the pandemic’s devastating impact on nursing home residents and staff, which most Americans witnessed through months and months of harrowing images. Other impediments to recruiting staff include the challenges of in-person work, a heightened risk of COVID-19 exposure, and the mental and emotional toll of caring for those most vulnerable. As a result, there is little incentive to get tomorrow’s workers to see the long-term care industry as their future.

The problem is real and immediate. Without having sufficient staffing, 78 percent of nursing homes across the country are concerned that workforce shortages might force them to close. This has already started having implications on the next generation of nursing home residents, with 58 percent of long-term care facilities limiting new admissions due to staffing shortages.

In order to survive the challenges ahead, Albany must become a full partner with the state’s nursing home industry to develop and enact a comprehensive workforce development plan. As the Hochul administration seeks a clean slate on a broad range of issues, the governor should restore the financial resources that were eliminated under the Cuomo administration. At the peak of the pandemic — at a time when 23 other states and the District of Columbia all increased Medicaid funding to nursing homes — New York made the unconscionable decision to cut Medicaid funding by 1.5 percent.

Recognizing the slow motion crisis taking place before our eyes, the Hochul administration should work with the nursing home industry to create a compelling messaging campaign that inspires potential staffers to pursue meaningful careers in our long-term care facilities. As part of this campaign, the state and the industry should combine resources to offer incentives for those who are committed to entering the nursing field. Similar to the Peace Corps, those who are interested in nursing should be offered partial college tuition reimbursements in exchange for working in a long-term care facility.

COVID-19 has proved that a pandemic can dismantle our health care system if we are either incapable of identifying the threat or unable to respond quickly in confronting the crisis. It is imperative that we reimagine our health care system in a way that integrates the resources needed so that we are not caught unaware when the next pandemic arrives.

Which raises the most urgent question: What happens on January 1 when Albany’s staffing mandate is enforced? Will our leaders simply ignore the reality of fewer and fewer nursing home employees reporting for work? Or will we learn from lessons past and heed this critical warning while we still have time?

Michael Balboni, of East Williston, is a former state senator now executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, a trade association providing regulatory compliance and life-safety services to more than 80 nursing homes in the New York City metro area.

Albany Update

As you are aware, GNYHCFA along with all of the New York State Nursing Home Associations, came together and filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the New York State Department of Health to prevent the 7/1/19 Medicaid Rates, with a new CMI methodology, from going into effect.  On November 1st a hearing was held in NYS Supreme Court, Albany County.

This afternoon, Justice Kimberly O’Connor issued a preliminary injunction preventing the new CMI methodology from going into effect.  This injunction is in effect pending final resolution of the case.

We will continue to update our membership as information becomes available.

Thank you for your continued support,

Michael A.L. Balboni

 

Albany: November 4, 2019 Press Conference on CMI Cuts

A mid-year cut of this magnitude can not be absorbed by any home without disruption to the care of its residents and increasing the already difficult financial burden faced by many homes.  A financially tenuous nursing home will be devastated by such an action.

Providing quality care for the elderly and the disabled is the backbone of a nursing home’s mission. A budget action of this size severely jeopardizes the home’s ability to provide that level of care and jeopardizes the very strong partnership that the nursing home industry has forged with the State over many years.

Michael A.L. Balboni, Executive Director

Monitoring Patch Offers Up-To-Date Information

Dr. Scarpa of Vestra Care presented the Telistat technology at our seminar “Providing Integrated Healthcare and Improving Outcomes” on June 21, 2018. We wanted to share the latest innovation update for Telistat.

“This patch is quite literally, a life-saver, and it will allow our patients in skilled nursing facilities to dramatically reduce the amount of money, time, and energy expended to treat their chronic condition. Better yet, they will be able to stay home. They will be able to communicate directly with the ‘war room’ through their television, laptop, tablet or cell phone. It is a harbinger of medical care to come.”

This is an excerpt of the article “Monitoring Patch Offers Up-To-Date Information” Monitoring Patch Offers Up-To-Date Information posted on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Read the full article by clicking here.