Nursing home health care shortages, a 'crisis'

Nursing homes across Wisconsin are dealing with historically low numbers when it comes to staff. It's a shortage that’s concerning to healthcare workers caring for society's most vulnerable. And it's a problem that only seems to be getting worse. 

 "What we’re seeing out there is a crisis," said Rick Abrams, CEO of Wisconsin Health Care Association.

Industries across the state are experiencing staffing shortages since the pandemic started. 

Wisconsin nursing homes and long-term care facilities are no different. 

"Initially it was a caregiver shortage, but now we’re seeing across the board. We’re seeing shortages in executive directors, nurses, dining staff," said Mike Pochowski, president and CEO of Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living.

As those healthcare workers look out for the most vulnerable -- longer hours, stress, and emotional strain has caused tenured employees to quit.

Industry leaders say with the transmissibility rates of the omicron variant -- it's only going to get worse.

"They’re working a number of shifts, and then they have COVID-19 and cases and hospitalizations because of the increase and it’s just been very stressful across the board," said Pochowski.

The saying goes not all heroes wear capes...but these workers are wearing many hats. 

And it's leaving many burned out. 

"Executive directors, administrators and nurses – they’re acting as caregivers because there’s such a staffing shortage," he said.

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Health care officials -- looking for immediate ways to relieve the shortage -- whether that be an increase in wages or immediate funding. 

"We would like to see either governor or where it’s appropriate the legislature use either some of the state budget surplus – which is at historic levels – or some of the remaining American Rescue Plan Act dollars," said Abrams.

According to the AARP website -- 54.4% of facilities are dealing with staffing shortages in nurses and aides. Many are hiring. Experts recommend reaching out to providers in the area if you're interested in the work.

Experts say the long-term care facilities staffing shortage is also causing backups with hospital beds -- as patients ready to be discharged have nowhere to go.

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