Mark Parkinson

States must take an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to helping assisted living communities and nursing homes address workforce needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living said Thursday.

The organizations’ “Long Term Care Workforce Roadmap for Governors and States” offers solutions to increase numbers of clinical and support staff, protect caregivers and support facilities dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Our heroic healthcare workers in long-term care have shown extraordinary commitment to their residents during this unprecedented time. They deserve our respect and need ongoing support as they continue to battle this virus,” AHCA / NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement. “Governors must take immediate action to help protect those currently on the frontlines and take proactive steps to recruit, train and deploy additional caregivers to ensure that residents continue to receive the daily care they need in our facilities. This is an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ situation.”

AHCA / NCAL pointed out that caregivers in long-term care are facing several challenges, including providing high-quality daily care and services to isolated residents. Many employees are unable to work due to lack of childcare or illness, resulting in a workforce shortage in the industry. And as states reopen, the likelihood of exposure or illness among staff members in those communities increases.

AHCA / NCAL’s roadmap encourages governors and state public health officials to:

  • Protect caregivers while they’re serving in LTC. Prioritize long-term care facilities for personal protective equipment and testing, as well as support facilities in administering tests and covering costs.
  • Help caregivers get to work and stay safe in the larger community. Ensure childcare options, offer “hero” pay to direct care staff, and reduce employees’ exposure to the virus in the community-at-large by helping them with access to meals and groceries.
  • Bring in additional clinical and support staff. Relax state regulations to allow medical professionals to work across state lines, to fast-track training for support staff, to expedite background checks and to allow long-term care professionals with lapsed licensing to continue working. Encourage medical professionals to volunteer in long-term care facilities, as they have done in hospitals.
  • Support facilities with outbreaks. Establish and deploy “strike teams” and the National Guard to support facilities experiencing outbreaks, and provide an avenue to long-term care providers to streamline requests.

“We’ve seen inspiring images of nurses and doctors flying across the country to serve in our hospitals. We hope to see the same national support rally around our long-term care facilities,” Parkinson said. “We owe it to our residents, those from the Greatest Generation, to ensure they have the necessary support they need and deserve.”