Bottlenecks in acute care pipeline leave patients nowhere to go

There are currently more than 8,000 job openings in long-term care facilities across the state, said Melissa Samuel, president and CEO of the Michigan Health Care Association, a Lansing-based long-term care industry group.

Currently, the industry has one vacancy in every seven positions, or about 15% of its entire workforce.

“The challenge was so great (for staffing) that they didn’t take admission,” Samuel said. “The whole industry is walking a tightrope and it’s been getting worse for two years.”

Crain contacted nearly a dozen long-term care facilities in southeastern Michigan but received no calls back, and the Health Care Association did not receive any interested parties after sending out calls to its members to be interviewed.

Many facilities are so understaffed that caseworkers can’t get anyone to answer calls or even discuss transferring patients, Gross said.

“We have a good relationship with the post-acute care facility and we don’t blame them, but sometimes the phone just rings and no one answers,” Gross said.

The Health Care Association recommended Gov. Gretchen Whitmer call in the Michigan National Guard to supplement dwindling staffing at long-term care facilities to accommodate more patients.

But Elizabeth Hertle, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the state has no intention of using general members of the National Guard for medical support.

“We’ve had the National Guard on a mission since February 2020, and we’re not done with that,” Hertle said. “National Guard members who are eligible to do this are medical practitioners in their private lives. Service providers. We’re just pulling providers from one place to another. It’s a zero-sum game.”

Michigan has about 11,000 National Guard personnel, but only 125 are on missions from the state to assist with COVID-19.

These National Guard members are assisting with testing and vaccine sites, Hertle said.

In December, Whitmer signed an executive order creating the Michigan Nursing Home Workforce Stabilization Council to develop and recommend policies that could improve staffing at long-term care facilities.

Samuel praised the governor’s office for seeking to address the issue, but noted that these policy recommendations may be too late in the omicron.

“I just think all the tools need to be ready,” Samuel said. “We’re getting closer to the point where we don’t have staff to take care of the residents we already have. This must be the tipping point. Look at the numbers.”

also on the horizon, Auditor plans to issue a review The number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities rose next week, with preliminary estimates showing 42 more deaths than previously reported.

In a rare step, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has sought to preempt publicly by questioning how the data was compiled.

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