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Nursing home worker shortage cited at both local and national levels

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River Bend Executive Director Jon Stene
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Many assisted living communities and nursing homes around the Rochester area are part of a worker-shortage crisis in the health care industry.

A survey conducted by the American Health Care Association showed only one-quarter of nursing homes are confident they will make it through to the next year.

River Bend Assisted Living Care is one home struggling to keep up with hiring of additional staff and continual payment of personal protection equipment (PPE).

"We've had struggles with staffing, as has everyone else in town," Executive Director Jon Stene said. "They end up not showing up for the interviews or they don't even call us back."

Patti Cullen of the American Health Care Association says there are two primary factors for why the crisis is becoming overwhelming.

"One of the reasons is kind of sobering. We had a lot of deaths in our communities, which means we had vacancies because of that. We first had the outbreaks before vaccines," she said. "And the second thing is that frankly, people delayed a lot of procedures. They didn't do their hip replacements, their knee replacements, all of that so we're still not getting our occupancy up to where it was."

Financial issues also came from federal and state governments cutting funding to the homes while employees continue COVID-19 testing to protect the residents.

"The testing cost used to be subsidized by the federal, state governments, and that subsidization is kind of ending. When you have 100 dollars a test and you're testing all staff on a fairly regular basis, that cost stays," Cullen said.

Stene says unemployment continuing through September has posed many problems for the community.

"Then you have the people that are on unemployment right now. The extra 300 dollars is continuing through September and that I think is a big source of this too," he said. "A lot of people think that it's easier to sit at home and make the same amount of money you would if you were working in this position."

However, the problems behind the scenes don't appear to be stopping residents from enjoying their time at River Bend.

"Really it's not enough to bother anything, you know. Sometimes we don't get some things that I think we should have at a certain time. They may be a little late, but they get it done."

More than half of nursing homes and nearly half of assisted living communities nationwide say their organization is currently operating at a loss.

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Ethan Humble

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