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Nursing homes not seeing staff shortage

When states and health care facilities started setting vaccine mandates, there was talk that it would lead to staff shortages, but that hasn’t really panned out.

“We have staff,” said Tiffany Billig, the administrator for Maple Shade Meadows Senior Living in Nesquehoning. “We are actually doing really well.”

Billig said they always have openings in general, but nursing staff has been steady.

“We’ve got some really great staff.”

Alicia Silliman, the administrator of Hometown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Tamaqua, said she did lose staff earlier in the pandemic, but it was because they were afraid of catching the virus and/or bringing it home to vulnerable family members.

Currently, about 65% of her nursing staff are employees and 35% are from agencies.

“We’re always looking to reduce that,” she said.

Silliman said she does offer employment to agencies, but she also promotes from within and offers in-house training and education to people who are wanting to become nursing assistants.

“It’s a rewarding career,” she said.

On Aug, 10, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that all employees in state health care facilities and high-risk congregate care facilities were to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 7, or be tested weekly for the disease. All new external employees as of Sept. 7 would also have to be vaccinated before beginning their employment.

Hometown is a privately owned facility, but Silliman said she would welcome more guidance from the state.

“Even though we offered the vaccine to our agency staff, many of them did not accept it,” she said.

Of Hometown’s employees, 70.4% are fully vaccinated as of Sept. 26, as well as 93.7% of the residents, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network.

Data about Maple Shade was not in the report, which is available on the state Department of Health’s website.

According to the CDC report on the DOH website, only 23.2% of skilled nursing homes, which includes both privately owned and state-run facilities, have a fully vaccinated staff rate of 80% as of Sept. 26.

Locally, the vaccination rates for staff in facilities in the report include:

Carbon County

• Mahoning Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Lehighton: 66.3% full, 2.4% partial;

• Summit at Blue Mountain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Lehighton: 92.8% full, 2% partial, and;

• Weatherwood Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, Weatherly: 56.7% full; 1% partial.

Monroe County

• Brookmont Healthcare Center, Effort: 68.3% full, 4% partial;

• Gardens At Stroud, East Stroudsburg: 58.9% full, 0.8% partial;

• Pleasant Valley Manor/Monroe County Home, Stroudsburg: 41.4% full; 0% partial, and;

Schuylkill County

• Gardens At York Terrace, Pottsville: 77.6% full, 1.2% partial;

• Manorcare Health Services-Pottsville: no data was available;

• Pottsville Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Pottsville: 37.5% full, 1.6% partial;

• Rosewood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Schuylkill Haven: 69.9% full, 3.3% partial;

• Schuylkill Center, Pottsville: 77.1% full, 1.1% partial;

• St. Luke’s Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Coaldale: 100% full

Silliman said the biggest hurdle facing her nursing facility is the need for more residents.

“We’ve had a tough time,” she said about filling the beds. “We’ve been trying to recover our census. Residents wanted to go home, because of COVID.”

There aren’t any cases of COVID-19 at Hometown, Silliman said. “There’s no reason to feel fearful.”

When the pandemic first hit, yes, they and everyone else were short on personal protective wear, she said. But now, they are well-stocked and have plenty of masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and everything else they need to keep the center clean and the residents safe.

“They no longer need to be fearful,” she said.

Hometown has 150 beds, and 93 residents, so they are at 62% capacity.

They aren’t alone in the struggle to get residents. Many nursing facilities in the DOH report showed low census counts around 60%. Locally though, census counts average in the 70% range.

Carbon County

• Mahoning Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center: 106 residents, 142 beds, 74.6% capacity;

• Summit at Blue Mountain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center: 58 residents, 91 beds, 63.7% capacity, and;

• Weatherwood Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center: 172 residents, 200 beds, 86% capacity.

Monroe County

• Brookmont Healthcare Center: 93 residents, 119 beds, 78.1% capacity;

• Gardens at Stroud: 92 residents, 127 beds, 72.4% capacity;

• Pleasant Valley Manor/Monroe County Home: 92 residents, 174 beds, 52.8% capacity.

Schuylkill County

• Gardens at York Terrace: 62 residents, 80 beds, 77.5% capacity

• Manorcare Health Services-Pottsville: no data reported to the DOH

• Pottsville Rehabilitation and Nursing Center: 91 residents, 179 beds, 50.8% capacity;

• Rosewood Rehabilitation and Nursing Center: 128 residents, 142 beds, 90% capacity;

• Schuylkill Center: 144 residents, 190 beds, 75.7% capacity;

• St. Luke’s Rehabilitation and Nursing Center: 41 residents, 48 beds, 85.4% capacity.