Dubuque County nursing homes feeling the impact of COVID-19 surge in cases, staffing shortages

Staff at nursing homes in Dubuque County say they are feeling the impact of the latest COVID-19 surge with employees getting sick, increasing staffing issues.
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 5:19 AM CST
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ASBURY, Iowa (KCRG) - Even though long-term care facilities have been experiencing staffing shortages since well before the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic has exacerbated those shortages.

“You are experiencing more staff that are out because, either they are sick, or also just because of the mitigation factors that they have been staying home,” Janet Warren, executive director at Luther Manor, said. “We are finding we are all pitching in and we are all picking up where we are needed.”

Warren explained nursing homes follow guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). She mentioned a recent change in guideline states workers can now return to work seven days after testing positive for COVID-19 instead of ten days after, which has helped alleviate shortages.

But the executive director said, regardless of staffing shortages, making sure residents stay safe and healthy is their number one priority.

”What we do is we can limit some of our non-essential duties, other activities so that we, again, preserve as much time as we can focusing on what needs to be done, the most important which is infection control and cleaning, wiping down those high-touch surfaces,” Warren explained.

Over at Hawkeye Care Center, staff said they are also seeing the impact of being short-staffed, with those who can come to work having to pull in extra weight.

”They may pick up hours, they might work a double shift, they might go home a little early because they know another shift needs help,” administrator Tracey Long said. “It is really all hands on deck and that includes the leadership team here at Hawkeye. People see me, I am helping make beds, I am helping sanitize high touch areas.”

Long explained they are following guidance from the CMS when it comes to allowing visitations, and, even though she said it is concerning having large numbers of people coming in and out the building, she added they feel they can control the risk.

“I would never want to go back to limiting visitation again,” she confessed. “That was just so detrimental really to the health and mental wellbeing of the residents and even the staff too.”

Both Luther Manor and Hawkeye Care Center are actively trying to fill their open positions. Staff said their main focus is to hire more nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). They encouraged those interested in the positions to reach out to their offices.

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