Texas Health Care Association (THCA) and LeadingAge Texas are urging the Texas Legislature to address the staffing crisis in nursing homes during the third special session. The direct-care workforce has been at critical shortage levels made worse by the pandemic. In a recent member survey, 70% of long-term care facilities cited that they are unable to hire enough nurses and over 30% have restricted new admissions due to staffing shortages.
“Since the beginning, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected long-term care residents as well as the frontline staff who care for them,” said Kevin Warren, President and CEO of THCA. "The ongoing fight against COVID-19 and now the Delta variant has continued to make it difficult for nursing homes to attract staff to the profession and retain them due to a hyper-competitive labor market for direct-care staff.”
THCA and LeadingAge Texas are voicing support for solutions that would help address short-term and long-term staffing shortages by drawing on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to Texas. In total, Texas has received approximately $16.7 billion to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, which Governor Abbott directed the Legislature to allocate during the third special session beginning September 20. THCA and LeadingAge Texas are asking for 400 million, or less than 3% of the state's total funds, to support efforts to recruit and retain more staff so older Texans continue to have access to care in over 1,200 Texas nursing homes.
THCA and LeadingAge Texas proposal to the Texas Legislature to support the nursing home workforce would direct funding to:
1. Address current recruiting and hiring needs through sign-on bonuses, overtime pay, use of direct care agency staffing support, and employing a designated, facility-based position of infection prevention specialists.
2. Improve staff retention programs to include frontline staff bonus and hero pay.
3. Support student loan repayment assistance programs for nurses working in long-term care and the training and testing costs for temporary nurse aides to become Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs).
4. Implement LVN to RN Bridge Programs that allow Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) to use their previous experience and educational backgrounds to attend “bridge” or transition courses to complete the Associate Degree Nursing curriculum in an accelerated process.
Many nursing homes in Texas have seen monthly costs increase by two to three-fold and quickly outspend the support provided through federal public health emergency funding which is set to expire at the end of the year. Unfortunately, the effects of COVID-19 are far from over, and these facilities need ongoing support to hire and train skilled staff.
“By creating career paths to attract Texans to enter long-term health care and providing nursing homes with the necessary resources to pay them livable wages, we can build a workforce to secure the future of our field and ensure seniors are taken care of in their later years,” said George Linial, President and CEO of LeadingAge Texas.