PAINTED POST, N.Y. (WROC) — Nursing homes around New York have been struggling with staffing shortages for years. But being hit with a global pandemic just two years ago only made matters worse.
With a decline in staffing, comes a decline in care, according to a nurse who works at AbsolutCare Three Rivers in Painted Post, New York.
As of now, there is no legislation in the state that dictates how many nurses are required for a certain amount of residents or how many hours a day residents should be getting direct care. However, legislation introduced during the Cuomo Administration that could change this has been pushed back twice now, leaving nursing home residents at risk for a multitude of complications.
Alyssa Case has been a nurse for 13 years, specializing in geriatrics and long-term care, a field that has always struggled with staffing.
“It is an absolute shame that we can treat the people in our prison system better than our elderly,” Case said. “We have been working short for years and years now, the pandemic’s just really shedding light on everything that a lot of us have already been complaining about in the long term field.”
Case said staffing shortages in a long-term care facility mean residents don’t always get the care they need, both physically and emotionally.
“My unit has 40 residents on it. Ideally, for like a six to two-day shift you’d want two nurses and four to five CNAs. We’re lucky if we get one or two,” Case said.
Maureen Gray is a certified nurses aid at the AboslutCare branch in Westfield. She said care has diminished across the field due to the lack of staffing brought on by requirements like vaccine mandates.
“The other day we had a resident that had a doctor’s appointment that missed his doctor’s appointment, because it was just me and a Helping Hands person not even a certified nurse’s aide for 40 residents,” Gray said.
Case said the same is happening at her branch of AbsolutCare in Painted Post.
“We’re seeing a lot more UTIs in conjunction with the lack of care, and the whole changing full beds from being soaked from head to toe,” Case said. “You see a lot more depression, a lot more depression in the residents.”
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a rating system for all nursing homes. Due to a law that was passed last year, nursing homes are now required to have that rating from the federal government posted on their website and posted in the facility itself.
According to the receptionist at AbsolutCare Three Rivers, their rating is 2/5.
News 8 spoke to a woman who’s mother is a resident at an AbsolutCare branch. Out of fear of retaliation against her mother, she asked to remain anonymous.
“It’s stressful, you’re constantly worried ‘Is she being taken care of?’ Sometimes you get calls, and they’re scared because they’re not being taken care of,” she said. “It’s not that they [the nurses] want to be neglectful. It’s not that they don’t want to do it. They just don’t have enough bodies to do it…There needs to be some guidelines in place to help the residents as well as the workers. The workers are working their butts off, and they just can’t get their head above water, they’re in the deep end, treading water constantly trying to accommodate and take care of these people. It’s a labor of love.”
Richard Marchese is a partner with Woods Oviatt Gilman, specializing in elder care law. He said during the Cuomo Administration, a safe staffing legislation was introduced which would require long-term care facilities to have nurses spend at least 3.5 hours per day with all residents. The legislation was passed by the Assembly and the Senate, being made law and was scheduled to be implemented on the first of this year.
However, that implementation was postponed twice.
“I think that’s going to be the implementation is going to be further delayed, in large part because there was a lawsuit brought by nursing homes, a consortium of nursing homes right at the end of the year on December 30,” Marchese said. “A separate law would require nursing homes to spend 70% of their revenue on direct patient care and the nursing homes have challenged that requirement in the courts and we’ll have to see what happens.”
Governor Hochul has proposed a number of measures in her budget to increase staffing and provide better wages. However, those better wages typically mean bonuses which are available to any nurse who picks up extra hours regardless of if they are full-time or part-time. However, that does not incentivize full-time nurses to take on more hours if their part-time coworkers are making the same with less money in their pocket.
News 8 did reach out to AbsolutCare Three Rivers for comment on this matter. They did not respond.