Wheelchair Against White Background

Every sector in healthcare has felt the sting of the current worker shortage, but none more so than long-term care, according to a report issued this month by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

Although hospitals lost 32,900 employees between December 2020 and December 2021, skilled nursing and residential care facilities lost more than 145,000 workers, according to the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the long-term care sector has lost more than 400,000 employees since the start of the pandemic.

“Providers are doing everything they can to recruit and retain staff, but we need government support to go further faster. It’s time for policymakers to invest in our frontline heroes and develop policies that will help recruit and retain hundreds of thousands of long-term caregivers,” a spokesperson for AHCA/NCAL told the McKnight’s Business Daily.

Jenna Kellerman, director of workforce strategy and development at LeadingAge, noted that the ASPE report focused largely on hospitals and acute care staff and largely overlooks the struggles of long-term care.

“The importance of LTSS [long-term services and supports] to the entire healthcare system was highlighted during the pandemic, yet is often left out as a key player in reports such as this,” she told the McKnight’s Business Daily 

ASPE’s report highlights a need that AHCA/NCAL and LeadingAge say is addressed by its proposed Care for Our Seniors Act, at least in addressing the worker shortage and other concerns in homes. The organizations have been advocating for the act to members of Congress and their aides, saying that the proposal encourages ​nursing home clinical improvements to enhance quality of care, workforce improvements to strengthen and support for frontline caregivers, oversight reforms to make systems more resident-driven and structural modernizations focused on resident dignity and safety.

“Our healthcare system at large cannot function without an operational arm of long-term care services. We need a recalibration of funding to properly reimburse LTSS for the important role they play within the system,” Kellerman said. “Without this recalibration, we won’t be able to support the flow of hospital patients into our LTSS settings, and will be less successful in preventing hospital admissions of our older adult consumers.”