Long-Term Care Industry in PA Lost 20% of Workforce Since Start of Pandemic

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA), long-term care in Pennsylvania has lost nearly 20-percent of its workforce since the start of the pandemic. 

Tuesday in Harrisburg, long-term care workers and advocates raised concerns about a serious workforce shortage that can jeopardize access to critical care in the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania has suffered a net loss of ten nursing homes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocates say that more will likely follow suit, if funding is not received from the state.

“We’re in desperate, desperate need of funding. So, we really want to get our message across of the situation that we’re in, because it’s really at the point of desperation,” said Noelle Kovaleski, Nursing Home Administrator at Carbondale Nursing Home in Carbondale, Pa. “It’s not that we just want funding, we need it to survive. My building has 115 beds. I may only be able to take 90 residents because we don’t have enough staff to care for the residents,” she added.

A workforce shortage and rising costs are causing nursing home administrators like Kovaleski to sound the alarm.

“The bills are piling, you know, just the increase in costs in what we’re paying our staff and the increase in food and everything. It’s unaffordable at this point,” said Kovaleski.

Not only is it hard to keep up with the costs, but also with the competition.

“We have a very difficult time recruiting and retaining staff because other health care systems obviously get more funding than we do. Like the hospital system, they’re able to pay their staff a lot more than we’re able to pay our staff,” said Kovaleski. “If we don’t get the increased funding, you’re going to see a lot of nursing homes closed and our elderly population is kind of going to be on their own because there’s not going to be long term care in the future,” she added.

Now, advocates from the Pennsylvania Health Care Association are rallying with a clear message for state lawmakers and leaders.

“To make long-term care, our seniors, and our health care heroes a priority,” said Zach Shamberg, President and CEO of PHCA. “There is a growing fear that Pennsylvania, a state with one of the oldest populations in the country, will not be able to provide care for its most vulnerable citizens,” he added.

He says the timing is critical as the 2022-23 fiscal budget has to be finalized by July 1.

“I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this year’s state budget could dictate the future of long-term care in Pennsylvania,” said Shamberg.

He says the future of long-term care for millions of seniors depends on this year’s budget and on remaining federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, which he says need to be invested for Pennsylvania’s Medicaid reimbursement.

PHCA is advocating for a $294 million increase in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid reimbursement and $75 million in one-time ARPA funds to support employee recruitment and retention bonuses.

“Nursing homes are closing, personal care homes and assisted living communities are turning away our vulnerable seniors. That can’t continue to happen, and we’ve got a real opportunity this year to make a difference,” said Shamberg.

Advocates say the state’s Medicaid reimbursement has not kept pace with rising costs and hasn’t increased since 2014. They say increasing it would help promote better wages, a stronger workforce, and also help make necessary investments to advance care.


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