ICYMI: NBC News: “Small-Town Nursing Homes Closing Amid Staffing Crunch”

In case you missed it, NBC News recently reported on the alarming rate that nursing homes across the country are closing, particularly in rural areas. The closures are a result of staffing shortages that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, forcing vulnerable seniors to find new care.
The report highlights the closure of The Good Samaritan Society facility in Postville, Iowa. It is one of 10 Good Samaritan Society facilities that have been closed in the past year. Nearly 40 residents at the Postville facility, including Marjorie Kruger, were told in September that they would have to find another place to live:
“‘The rug was taken out from under me,’ said Kruger, 98. ‘I thought I was going to stay there the rest of my life.’
“Her son found a room for her in another Good Samaritan center in Waukon, a small town 18 miles north of Postville. Kruger said the new facility is a pleasant place, but she misses her friends and longtime staffers from the old one. ‘We were as close as a nice family,’ she said.
“The Postville facility’s former residents are scattered across northeastern Iowa. Some were forced to move twice, after the first nursing home they transferred to also went out of business.”
The closures are hitting rural areas of the country the hardest. The report continues:
“In Iowa, 13 of the 15 nursing homes that closed in 2022 were in rural areas, according to the Iowa Health Care Association. ‘In more sparsely populated areas, it’s harder and harder to staff those facilities,’ said Brent Willett, the association’s president. He noted that many rural areas have dwindling numbers of working-age adults …
“Colorado’s executive director of health care policy and financing, Kim Bimestefer, told a conference in November that the state recognizes it needs to help shore up care facilities, especially in rural areas. ‘We’ve had more nursing homes go bankrupt in the last year than in the last 10 years combined,’ she said.
“In Montana, at least 11 nursing homes — 16% of the state’s facilities — closed in 2022, the Billings Gazette reported.”
The report notes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that show the number of workers in nursing homes and other care facilities dropped by 410,000 nationally from February 2020 to November 2021, but staffing has only rebounded by about 103,000 since.
Staffing shortages are causing facilities to limit their admissions and hospitals to keep patients longer:
“Many care centers that have managed to remain open are keeping some beds vacant because they don’t have enough workers to responsibly care for more residents …
“The lack of open nursing-home beds is marooning some patients in hospitals for weeks while social workers seek placements. More people are winding up in care facilities far from their hometowns, especially if they have dementia, obesity, or other conditions that require extra attention.”
As nursing homes grapple with this unprecedented challenge, the Biden administration is expected to implement a federal staffing minimum. A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter last week to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, expressing concern about a federal mandate and the additional burden it would impose, especially on facilities in rural communities. The senators discourage CMS from taking for a “one-size-fits-all” approach and instead urge them to work with them on solutions that address staffing shortages. 
Nursing homes cannot solve this labor crisis alone. Policymakers must make meaningful investments in our workforce so our seniors can continue to access the high-quality care they need.