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Nursing home staffing tricky

We know how difficult the past 18 months have been, particularly for those working in assisted living facilities. It is no wonder, then, they are facing staffing shortages to the point of families complaining it has affected care of their loved ones.

“The top complaints we get are really indicative of staffing such as symptoms unattended, cold food, slow response to calls for help,” said Beverley Laubert, the Ohio long-term care ombudsman.

Ohio Health Care Association numbers show the average starting salary for a state-tested nursing assistant is between $15 and $18. That means, of course, that many who might pursue such a career may decide they can make just as much money without the stress of that work.

But even Peter Van Runkle, executive director of the OHCA, says an increase in salary would be nice, though it won’t solve everything. “Even if we were able to raise wages a lot, say $18 an hour for state-tested nursing assistance, are we magically solving the problem? No,” he told WBNS-TV in Columbus.

Remember, Medicare and Medicaid set the reimbursement level to most nursing homes.

What now, then? Do we appease families by setting minimum standards of care facilities that they are incapable of meeting? They’ve still got to figure out how to recruit more students to become nursing assistants, and make sure those students will be able to pay their bills and be fairly paid for the kind of work they do.

Lawmakers have some thinking to do. (There’s also the matter of how much more burden can be placed on taxpayers.)

Perhaps a good place to start is in the high schools, where teachers and counselors have a chance to talk to students about the need for nursing assistants and the difference they will make for facility residents and their families.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have their work cut out for them.

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