The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) released a "Long Term Care Workforce Roadmap for Governors and States," outlining ways state public health officials can help nursing homes and assisted living communities address workforce needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the roadmap, AHCA/NCAL offers possible solutions to states to help increase the number of clinical and support staff, protect caregivers while they serve their residents, help caregivers get to work and stay safe in the larger community, and support specific long term care facilities dealing with cases.
"Our heroic health care 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," said Mark Parkinson, President & CEO of AHCA/NCAL. "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."
Caregivers in long term care are rising to the challenge in responding to this threat; however, COVID-19 has resulted in increased demands on staff. Residents must be isolated from others while still receiving the high-quality daily care and services they require. Coupled with the fact that some staff are unable to work because they are sick, lack childcare options with schools and daycares closed or have to be quarantined themselves--in part a consequence of inadequate availability of personal protective equipment (PPE)--a workforce shortage currently exists in long term care settings.
Furthermore, AHCA/NCAL anticipates additional workforce support will be needed as testing in long term care facilities expands across the country and may identify staff members who are positive but asymptomatic. Additionally, with many states re-opening sectors of the economy, this increases the likelihood of staff members contracting the virus while out in the larger community. Residents in long term care facilities are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, and they require round-the-clock care and support from dedicated professionals.
AHCA/NCAL is encouraging governors and state public health officials to explore ideas, such as:
- Making long term care facilities a priority for PPE to protect current caregivers and residents from contracting the virus.
- Making long term care facilities a priority for timely testing of staff and residents to identify asymptomatic carriers and empower facilities to respond in a targeted way. States need to support facilities in administering tests and covering costs.
- Allowing nurses and other medical professionals to cross state lines and allowing facilities to hire temporary caregivers and support staff, which will require relaxing state regulations.
- Encouraging medical professionals to volunteer as we have seen them do for hospitals.
- Deploying the National Guard to specific facilities with outbreaks to help with cleaning, testing, PPE, and staff support.
"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," continued Parkinson. "We owe it to our residents, those from the Greatest Generation, to ensure they have the necessary support they need and deserve."