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COVID cases and deaths down but staffing shortages remain in Iowa nursing homes

Posted at 5:57 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 18:57:47-04

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) - According to AARP's nursing home COVID-19 dashboard, 37% of nursing homes reported a shortage of nurses or aides.

With the vaccine roll out, Pottawattamie County Public Health's Matt Wyant sees progress with long-term care facilities.

"We did have COVID get back into two of our facilities, even with them being vaccinated. But what we did not see this time around that was different from the first time was the spread," Wyant said.

But staffing shortages remain. AARP Iowa's advocacy director Anthony Carroll says the problem is burnout and low pay.

"The median wages for direct care workers is about $10.50 an hour. It's taking a toll on people," Carroll said.

Carroll believes a good starting point is to create a centralized database of direct care workers. There was a bill called HF692 that pushed for that but it failed to pass the Senate.

"This is an action that can be taken," Carroll said. "We have a very bare bones, fairly antiquated, finally being updated, certified nursing assistance registry."

Lori Ristau with Iowa Health Care Association says the profession needs more funding but a registry is not the answer.

"Adding additional loopholes in front of those care workers would be additional hoops they would jump through to work in long-term care," Ristau said.

Legislatively, the group is working on some of the requirements for training for workers.

It's an issue that draws much attention but is in dire need of a solution.

"The number one thing we learned through this pandemic is long-term care needs to be a priority for resources," Ristau said.

To establish a better long-term care system, AARP Iowa also wants to bring stronger support for family caregivers and give affordable care options in urban and rural areas.