Indiana nursing homes already struggling with staff as Delta variant intensifies

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INDIANAPOLIS — Nationally, the nursing and residential care facility industry lost almost 10,000 jobs in the last month, according to the latest labor report.

Nursing homes across Indiana are also sharing these struggles. Zach Cattell, the president of the Indiana Healthcare Association, said it’s not for a lack of trying.

”We know our members are doing everything they can to recruit and retain these workers,” Cattell said. “Ranging from significant increase in wages, sign-on bonuses and retention payment.”

Evan Lubline, the CEO of Hooverwood Living, said this has been a pandemic problem.

”At one time we would get 100 applications every two weeks. Now we might get 15,” Lubline said.

He said these past few months have been especially difficult.

”The last 90 days have been very, very hard in our organization,” Lubline said. “Finding people that actually will apply that want to do this job.”

Gary Horning, the VP of marketing and communications for Otterbein Senior Life, said they’re experiencing similar problems. He said they have been operating about 10% short of full staff across their locations. He said they’ve had to fill those holes with more costly options.

”The difficulty is it’s a far more expensive proposition when you’re paying the overhead of a contracting company as opposed to just your own employees,” Horning said.

Another concern both men share is burnout in their employees.

”A lot of our staff are working 60 hour weeks. Some of our nurse leadership is on the floor helping out more and more,” said Lubline.

Horning said another issue is people who are no-shows to job interviews.

”We, like a lot of other areas, are seeing a number of people who apply for opportunities and then don’t show up for the interview, show up for the interview and are offered the opportunity and don’t ever hear from them again,” Horning said.

As for how big the nursing home staffing issue is in Indiana, Cattell said there’s no way to know for sure. No one in the state tracks those numbers.

”Being able to collect that level of data is a significant undertaking, and we are not collecting that now at the association,” he said.

With the Delta variant surging and case counts climbing again, both are worried about the effect it could have on their nursing homes and residents.

Horning said they would like to require staff to get vaccinated for COVID-19 but don’t want to drive away any potential employees.

Lubline said he’s looking forward to the end of the pandemic to give his industry some break.

”I think people are burnt out,” he said. “This is a demanding job. This is very tough. To deal with what’s going on with the pandemic, the stress of it mentally, physically, it’s been very hard.”

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