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Nursing homes and assisted living facilities feel impacts of worker shortage

Posted at 11:15 PM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 23:15:19-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The ongoing worker shortage has been felt by dozens of industries including nursing homes and assisted living centers.

According to a recent survey from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, 99% of nursing homes and 96% of assisted living centers are facing a staffing shortage.

“We can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel but we’ve had some dark and dreary days,” said Tamara Blue, who is a SEIU union member and a CNA at Ambassador, A Villa Center in Detroit.

For Blue, the pandemic has been brutal. Like nearly every industry, hers is facing a dire staffing shortage. Blue says they feel the impacts at work.

"Oh yes," Blue said. "Overworked, underpaid, that’s an everyday life for a CNA.”

According to the survey, the majority of facilities are asking employees to work overtime with nearly 70% saying it’s very difficult to find staff.

“This summer and right now what’s going on in the employment world is crazy," said David Miller, Executive Director at the Village of East Harbor in Chesterfield. "I've never seen anything like this.”

The campus has independent and assisted living facilities. They recently moved nursing staff from 8 to 12-hour shifts, and are still looking to hire roughly 40 full-time employees.

“A lot of other senior-related organizations; nursing homes, assisted living, whatever, are all feeling the same pinch," Miller said. "It’s like a wage war out there.”

Miller says they offer benefits and have increased wages but still struggle as other industries also face a staffing shortage.

They're looking to hire not just nursing staff, but also for positions in the dining, maintenance, and laundry departments.

“We used to compete with other senior communities, we used to even compete with maybe the hospital," Miller said. "But now our competition out there for employees is fast food, it’s the drug stores, it’s gas stations, it’s everybody.”

Blue says some of her coworkers are fatigued and burnt out from the pandemic.

“The stress level is ultimately high because now when we look at nursing home settings, we are the providers, we’re the families, we’re the friends, we’re everything to the family,” Blue said

Since the start of the pandemic, the State of Michigan has offered "hero pay," adding over $2 more per hour to some nursing home workers giving direct care. However other workers in nursing homes feel excluded and have been going to city council meetings across the state, including one two weeks ago in Saginaw. They want cities to add their own hero pay.

“EVS, dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, it all takes every single worker to be able to take care of the most vulnerable," said Andrea Acevedo, President of the SEIU Healthcare Michigan Union. "If you can’t take care of the worker, they can’t do their job.”

As facilities continue to search out employees, the labor crisis continues to make it harder. Those responsible for hiring are hoping something changes soon

“It's very tough because we want to be the very best at what we do and we need people to join the team,” Miller said. “I don't know where the end is to all this.”