Texas lawmakers set aside millions of dollars to address nursing home staff shortages


AUSTIN (KXAN) – With Texas nursing homes facing a staffing crisis, state lawmakers have earmarked hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to help.

Before adjourning its third special session of the year, the Texas legislature agreed on how to spend approximately $ 13 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding. Senate Bill 8 directs the State Department of Health Services to distribute $ 2 billion for back-up staff in long-term care facilities, but also in hospitals and infusion centers.

The bill also provides the Commission de la santé et des services sociaux with additional funding for the staffing needs of these homes: $ 200 million in grants for nursing homes and $ 178 million in grants for residences. -services.

“They’re going to use these funds for things like recruiting bonuses and retention bonuses; being able to pay for hero pay and incentives – all of those things needed to be able to compete in these hyper-competitive markets, ”said Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association ( THCA), which advocates skilled nursing care. facilities.

Warren said the funding was needed more than ever as other federal relief distributed last year at the start of the pandemic began to run out.

THCA has partnered with another advocacy group, LeadingAge Texas, to investigate more than 200 care facilities and more than 30 assisted living communities. It found that 100% of the institutions surveyed had vacant Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) positions. 94% had unfilled registered professional nurses and 90% had unfilled dietetics, laundry and housekeeping positions.

70% of responding establishments said they “cannot compete with other employers” to fill positions. 63% said they did not have any candidates for the places. The majority of establishments reported using double shifts and overtime more than a year ago.

This is also a trend that is reflected nationally: a similar national survey found that 99% of nursing facilities reported staff shortages. Many homes feared shortages would cause them to close. The latest federal labor statistics show nursing homes across the country have lost hundreds of thousands of employees during the pandemic.

“We wouldn’t be here today – I wouldn’t be sitting here today – if we didn’t have a dedicated staff,” said Doyle Antle, executive director of Buckner Villas in Austin.

Yet Buckner Villas has not been immune to the staff issues posed by the pandemic. He said some staff have had to make tough decisions about their jobs depending on the safety of their families and residents.

He said they plan to channel as much money as they get from the state as possible, directly to their staff.

“CNA, the caregiver, the primary caregiver is the lifeline of our ability to provide care, and that’s where we suffer the most,” said Antle.

“The relationship is strained because there isn’t enough of me to take care of all of you. Then I start to feel like a failure, and I’m diminished. It gets overwhelming,” explained Lori Porter, Founder of the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA). “There are easier ways to make a living, so we need to do something to fight pay equity for CNAs across America and Texas as well . ”

Porter praised the state legislature for taking this step to maintain the current “healing force,” as she calls it, with Senate Bill 8. Nonetheless, she hopes to see some of the money used to educate and support new NACs entering the profession. also.

In fact, the NAHCA has decided to launch a new program to provide more training and services to incoming NACs than is currently required for licensing. The National Institute of CNA Excellence will be offered in Texas from January before expanding to other states.

“The NACs have never had a home before; somewhere they can belong, ”she said. “But more importantly, Texas NACs will have the opportunity to learn from real subject matter experts.”

Currently, federal regulations only require that CNA training programs include 75 hours of training, including at least 16 hours of supervised practical or clinical training. CNA’s National Institute of Excellence would offer longer virtual training and sessions with experts across the country, free to students. Then they would match and place students with facilities, with the goal of creating a more sustainable workforce and providing NACs with more resources to be successful.

Porter is not sure if any of the federal dollars allocated can be used to fund the institute, but she said they are working with THCA and LeadingAge Texas on its creation.

“If we are given an opportunity and a path to take care of another human being, we are all surprised how many are still willing to do it,” she said.

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