ICYMI: New Report Reveals Hospitals Struggling To Discharge Patients To Nursing Homes, 61 Percent Of Nursing Homes Limiting Admissions


In case you missed it, Axios reported on a new study from WellSky – a health and community care technology company - that revealed hospitals are struggling to discharge recovering patients because of a historically tight health care labor market that is most acutely felt in nursing homes. Patient backlogs can reduce hospital capacity, resulting in limited ability to treat new patients and delayed or canceled procedures. 
The WellSky report covered more than 2,000 hospitals and 130,000 post-acute care providers that serve more than 13 million patients. The report found:
  • Demand for post-acute care is rising as patient acuity rises, but referral rejection rates are also increasing.
  • Hospital average length of stay (ALOS) prior to post-acute discharge remains high and has increased by approximately one day since 2019. For patients discharged to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), hospital ALOS has increased 12 percent since 2019.
  • Sixty-one percent of nursing homes are limiting new admissions.

This long term care labor crisis is limiting access to care, and it’s impacting seniors and hospitals nationwide:
  • In Nebraska, a recent survey from the Nebraska Hospital Association revealed that approximately 225 patients each month are struggling to find a place to go after being discharged from the hospital, with some patients waiting more than six months to get into a nursing home.
  • In Massachusetts, more than 1,000 hospital patients are unable to be released to a long term care facility and have been staying in their hospital beds for months.
  • In Minnesota, long term care facilities are being forced to turn away seniors coming from hospitals at “alarming rates” according to Care Providers of Minnesota and LeadingAge Minnesota. According to recent data, facilities are denying an average of 450 hospital referrals every day.
  • In Hawaii, many long term care facilities, such as nursing homes, are still experiencing staffing shortages and are unable to admit new patients. So those patients — an average of 250 to 300 on any given day — end up waiting in hospital beds.
Hospital backlogs are a result of an ongoing labor shortage within the long term care industry, as the sector continues to struggle to recover from the pandemic. While all health care settings have felt the impact, long term care has been especially hard hit, with nursing homes losing nearly 250,000 workers during the pandemic alone. Almost 190,000 workers are needed to return to pre-pandemic levels, and a full job recovery isn’t expected until late 2026. 
Unfortunately, the Biden Administration’s proposed solution to the ongoing crisis is a federal minimum staffing mandate that would do more harm than good. Nursing homes are doing everything they can to hire more caregivers, but there simply are not enough to fill the job openings. A staffing requirement will be impossible to meet in the current environment and would fail to address the underlying challenges with recruitment and retention.
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) sent a letter ​to President Biden last week with several solutions the administration could implement instead of an arbitrary staffing mandate. The association included a set of workforce programs among the proposed solutions, such as loan forgiveness, tax credits and career development programs, that would help attract more caregivers to the long term care field. 
The nursing home sector needs support, not mandates. Investing in our long term and post-acute care workforce is critical so our entire health care system remains strong and our nation’s seniors have access to the high quality care they deserve.​