Coronavirus News: Nursing homes face staff, testing shortages amid COVID-19 pandemic

NEW YORK (WABC) -- While a lot of attention has been focused on front line hospital workers, some nursing homes say they need more help dealing with the coronavirus -- and they need it now.

The number of people being hospitalized has gone down at most local hospitals, but some fear the number of positive cases and deaths will continue to increase at nursing homes with the current resources.

"They're becoming infected with COVID-19, we've had staff pass away," said Stephen Hanse, President of NYS Health Facilities Association, which represents more than 450 nursing homes and assisted living centers in New York. "Focus on the population to work together to protect them, to safeguard them and get them through this, because they are most at risk."

He says they're fighting a battle with the most vulnerable population, as more than 2,700 deaths have occurred at nursing home facilities in New York alone.

And it's not just patients dying, it's nursing home staff members, as well. Additionally, many workers have tested positive, creating critical shortages.

"Significant shortages in CNs, RNs, lPNs," Hanse said. "We had a shortage of medical directors that oversee the whole medical side of the nurse home."

Part of the problem, he says, is that nursing home workers haven't been a number one priority in testing, like hospital workers have been.
Also, all nursing homes have been required by the New York Department of Health to admit COVID-19 patients from hospitals in an effort prevent overcrowded emergency rooms. That's been happening since last month, even though they're being admitted back into buildings full of elderly people who have underlying health conditions.

"When hospitals admit patients to nursing homes, they may be presenting symptoms," he said. "But if they're medically stable, nursing homes have to accept those admissions."

Hanse says many nursing facilities are also experiencing a shortage of protective gowns and face shields to help keep workers and patients safe.

Recruiters are offering premium hazmat pay to try and recruit new staff members to fill the void at nursing homes during the pandemic.

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