Long-term care worker shortage causing businesses to close

The state’s long-term caregiver workforce shortage is causing businesses to close, according to John Vander Meer, executive director of the Wisconsin Health Care Association.

Long-term care facilities support an estimated $8.95 billion of Wisconsin’s economic activity, driving economic growth in communities around the state. That comes from visitors and staff buying local goods, and also from the facilities themselves purchasing from third-party food and medical supply distributors.

In a recent column, Vander Meer wrote about the challenges facing skilled nursing centers, noting that Wisconsin ranks among the worst states in the country for skilled nursing Medicaid reimbursement. He said nearly two-thirds of skilled nursing care residents rely on Medicaid to pay their bills.

“The problem is most evident in the ongoing long-term caregiver workforce shortage. Due to low reimbursement, providers often cannot offer nursing assistants wages that compete with wages offered at convenience stores and fast food restaurants,” he said.

Even if care centers have the space, many aren’t able to admit new residents due to lack of proper staffing. A recent survey from a group of Wisconsin health provider organizations found one in five long-term caregiver positions is vacant.

He says this shortage has “reached crisis proportions” in the state, as 16 nursing care centers have closed since 2016 “with more closing this year.”

These shutdowns often hit rural communities hardest, where many might be employed at the local nursing center. He notes a recent closure north of Eau Claire will lead to 40 jobs lost in Dallas, a village with a population of only 409.

“These types of losses can be devastating for local communities,” he said. “And stress to a frail elderly resident who has called a community their home for their entire life being forced to relocate 10, 20, 50 miles away can take a serious toll on residents’ health and wellbeing.”

Some steps are being taken to mitigate the problem. He says long-term care providers are grateful for the 2 percent increase in skilled nursing Medicaid reimbursement in the 2017-19 state budget.

But, he said, the state’s current reimbursement system is broken, “and the time is now for the state to consider systemic skilled nursing Medicaid reimbursement reform.”

See a recent story on this issue: http://wisbusiness.com/index.Iml?Article=390985

–By Alex Moe