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60% Of Wyoming Nursing Homes Are Understaffed

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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.

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Report: Wyoming Has Highest Rate Of COVID Nursing Home Deaths

in AARP/News/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has the country’s highest rate of coronavirus-related nursing home deaths, according to a recent report released by AARP Wyoming.

Wyoming’s COVID nursing home death rate is currently 0.2 per 100 residents, ahead of Kansas (0.19) and Arkansas (0.18). All three are above the national average of 0.03 deaths per 100 residents.

Wyoming’s high ranking is the result of a spate of deaths that occurred during a four-week period ending on July 18 and its low population of nursing home residents relative to the rest of the country, according to AARP.

Nationally, COVID-19 cases continue to rise among nursing home residents and staff, increasing 50% among residents and 60% among staff over the week of July 12.

“The increases are concerning given the rise of new variants, the gaps in vaccinations among those in nursing homes, and the disproportionate numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 and high risk in these facilities throughout the pandemic,” AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway said.

“More than 186,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19 – representing around 30% of deaths, even though less than 1% of the population lives in these facilities,” he said.

Wyoming’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among nursing home staff actually declined in the four-week period ending July 18, falling from 1.3 per 100 residents to 1 confirmed case per 100 residents. However, that also remains well above the national average of 0.3%.

Wyoming is also above the national average for nursing homes reporting staffing shortages. Just over 37% of Wyoming nursing homes reported staffing shortages of direct care workers in Wyoming over the four-week period ending July 18, while nationally, 23.7% of nursing homes reported shortages.

Wyoming’s percentage of COVID-19 vaccination rates among nursing home staff also remains below the national average at 51%, compared to the national average of 60%, ranging from a low of 44% in Louisiana to a high of 87% in Hawaii.

However, the number of COVID cases among nursing home residents actually declined over the four-week period ending July 18, falling from 1.1 resident cases per 100 residents to just 0.3 per 100 residents (or six total cases inside the state’s nursing homes).

That ratio has Wyoming ranked 10th in the nation for the lowest percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases per nursing home resident over the last four weeks.

Wyoming’s nursing homes also reported no urgent need for personal protective equipment, making Wyoming one of only six states to report no facilities with an urgent need for PPE.

More than 88% of Wyoming’s nursing home residents are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, placing Wyoming inside the top 15 in the nation. Vermont’s nursing homes boast a 95% vaccination rate among residents, while Arizona has the nation’s lowest rate at 64%.

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Report: COVID Infections, Deaths In Wyoming Nursing Homes Improving

in News/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Coronavirus cases and deaths in nursing homes across Wyoming have been steadily declining, according to a recent report from AARP Wyoming.

The number of nursing home deaths per 100 residents in the state saw a substantial drop, going from 2.22 per 100 residents from the four-week period ending Jan. 17 to 0.76 from the four-week period ending Feb. 14.

The nursing home resident infection rate per 100 residents also dropped from 10.4 cases from the four-week period ending Jan. 17 to 3.6 from the four-week period ending Feb. 14.

“The nursing home dashboard numbers are showing improvement across the board and we are pleased to see that,” said AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway. “We are now starting to return to levels of infection and death rates we haven’t seen since last fall. We are optimistic that those trends continue.”

The coronavirus death rate in Wyoming nursing homes is the lowest since the four-week period ending Nov. 18, when the death rate was 0.25 per 100 residents.

For the first four measured four-week periods of the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard in 2021, there were no deaths in Wyoming nursing homes.

The death rate peaked at 2.95 deaths per 100 residents during the four-week period ending Nov. 15. That was one of the 10 highest ratios nationwide for a four-week period since AARP began reporting this information.

Other good news coming out of the latest dashboard snapshot included a large drop in coronavirus cases among nursing home staff, with the ratio dropping from 8.1 staff cases per 100 residents during the four-week period ending Jan. 17 to 3.8 staff cases per 100 residents in the latest four-week period ending Feb. 14.

The dashboard’s final two measures – percentage of facilities without at least a week’s worth of personal protective equipment (14%) and nursing homes with staffing shortages (25 %) both saw improvements as well over their previous snapshots and were at their lowest levels since last fall.

There have been 691 deaths among Wyoming residents since the pandemic began last March.

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