By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
While more than half of Wyoming’s nursing homes are experiencing staffing shortages, conditions are actually better than they have been for several months, an AARP Wyoming spokesman told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
Like the rest of the nation, Wyoming has seen major issues with staffing in the health care industry, particularly at nursing homes.
AARP Wyoming spokesman Tom Lacock told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that the staffing issue in Wyoming has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Our nursing home dashboard has followed the issue for two years and reports 60% of Wyoming nursing homes had a shortage of nurses and/or aides in the four weeks ending March 20,” Lacock said. “While that sounds bad, it is actually an improvement. The previous three dashboard have shown Wyoming nursing home staffing shortages at around 70%.”
Lacock said the highest percentage of staffing shortages was 73.5% in the four-week period ending Dec. 19, 2021.
President Joe Biden in February outlined a plan to require a minimum number of staff at nursing homes nationwide and a reduction in shared rooms.
Lacock said AARP Wyoming supports the administration’s staffing goals.
“We were also encouraged to hear the President describe new actions to ensure that residents in nursing homes will receive the safe, high-quality care they deserve,” he said. “The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the chronic, ongoing issues with our long-term care system and emphasized the need for reform.”
He added that AARP urged the federal government to act swiftly to ensure minimum staffing standards, increase transparency and hold nursing homes accountable when they do not provide quality care.
“AARP appreciates the proposed goals of the reforms, specifically requiring minimum numbers of adequately trained staff, promoting private rooms, oversight and enforcement, as well as greater access to information about nursing home conditions so families can make the best choices possible,” Lacock said.
According to NPR, numerous studies have shown that understaffed nursing homes can harm the health of residents, who suffer more bedsores, more weight loss, more overprescribing of anti-psychotic medications and more COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Nationwide, nursing homes are down more than 240,000 employees since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act requires facilities to have “sufficient” staff so that residents can achieve or maintain their “highest practicable” physical, mental and psychosocial well-being.