By Elyse Kelly | The Center Square contributor
Illinois’ long-term care facilities are at a breaking point after hemorrhaging staff over the course of the pandemic.
Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show 21% of Illinois’ long-term care facilities are experiencing a shortage of nursing staff, ABC7 Chicago reported.
Matt Pickering, executive director for Health Care Council of Illinois (HCCI), said the industry is facing a perfect storm of problems and COVID-19 is at the top.
“That is the number one factor for why we’ve lost about 15% of our workforce – that’s a national number – obviously that varies depending on the facility and different areas of the state,” he told The Center Square.
Different parts of the state have been hit harder, Pickering said, but it’s getting worse everywhere. Already, two facilities in Springfield have had to close.
“One of those reasons was a staff shortage,” he said. “They just could not find the people to adequately serve the residents in that building.”
The staffing shortage not only affects the industry, but also the residents.
Facilities are turning to temporary staffing agencies to fill gaps, but it leads to instability for everyone, according to Pickering.
The ever-changing faces of staff in nursing homes makes daily operations more difficult and leaves residents feeling uncomfortable in a place that’s supposed to feel like home, he said.
“The number one concern that I kept hearing was the fact that the staff were leaving and that they were living in what is their home with temporary staff,” he said.
And that’s not the only problem created by using temporary staff. Staffing agencies have taken advantage of the situation, Pickering said.
“The staffing agencies, which we really believe are predatory in nature, throughout the pandemic have been charging two to three times as much as what staff would normally cost,” he said. “That’s putting a great financial strain on the system.”
The situation is not sustainable, he added.
“This is an industry that is really on the brink, and we have to solve these problems otherwise you will see more closures, and you would start seeing a displacement of more residents throughout the state, and we are desperately trying to avoid that,” Pickering said.
Currently, legislation to address this and other problems is being hammered out, and Pickering hopes to see a complete reformation of the system by the end of the legislative session in April. Until then, he said, nursing homes have to do whatever they can to stay open.
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The Health Care Council of Illinois (HCCI) strives to bridge the divide between policymakers and nursing home communities across the State of Illinois. As a non-profit member association, HCCI represents more than 300 licensed Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNiFs) in Illinois.
Through education and advocacy, HCCI works collaboratively with administrators, lawmakers and other stakeholders to find creative, practical solutions to complex public policy issues impacting our residents and neighbors.
HCCI actively works alongside state legislators and officials to develop, respond and interpret state and federal regulations. HCCI efforts support legislation that will benefit nursing home communities, as well as overcome any legislation that could be harmful to our members and residents.
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