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AHCA / NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson

Fifty-five percent of skilled nursing providers responding to a recent survey by the American Health Care Association say that they are operating in the red, and 48% of respondents said that they would not be able to sustain operations at the current pace for more than a year. 

The association said that its survey of 524 nursing home providers, conducted Dec. 7 to 16, highlights a persistent staffing and economic crisis facing the industry. Results were released Tuesday.

The survey results also found 55% of respondents saying that they are limiting the acceptance of new residents and patients as they grapple with how to meet proposed federal staffing minimums among other economic challenges.

Almost all respondents (95%) said that they were concerned about being able to meet a staffing minimum of 4.1 hours of care per day per resident being floated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“Government staffing mandates will not solve the core issue here. We need a concerted, collective effort with proper resources and incentives to help recruit more individuals to work in long-term care,” Holly Harmon, RN, AHCA’s senior vice president of quality, regulatory and clinical services, said Tuesday in a statement issued in conjunction with the survey results.

According to a July report from AHCA, released in conjunction with CliftonLarsenAllen, the mandated minimum staffing proposal collectively would cost nursing homes $10 billion annually. By mid-December, CLA estimated that annual cost to be $11.3 billion.

Eighty-four percent of the participants in the current AHCA survey said that they are facing moderate to high levels of staffing shortages; just 3% said they are fully staffed. Forty-three percent said that their workforce situation has gotten worse since the middle of last year.

Nursing home providers reported having difficulty filling those open positions, even with offering increased wages and incentives. The most significant driver of the difficulty, reported by 71% of respondents, was finding candidates willing to work in the industry. 

Most (83%) of the providers surveyed said that the COVID-19 public health emergency should be extended, a move that is expected to happen. Thirty-one percent of participants indicated an ongoing need for public resources to help protect residents and staff members from the “tripledemic” of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, that they currently face.

“It’s been nearly three years since the first COVID case in the US, and nursing homes are still far from recovery,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA, said Tuesday. “Nursing homes have done everything they can on a fixed government budget — they cannot solve this crisis on their own. We need policymakers to invest in long-term care so we can compete for healthcare workers, transform America’s nursing homes and prepare for a growing elderly population.”