ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Short-lived relief for local hospitals. A drop in the number of COVID-19 patients is being matched by an increase of patients who can’t get into nursing homes.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been hit hard by the pandemic, many of them without the staff to keep their facilities running. Without prominent staff, they can’t take in new residents which leave those patients taking up valuable hospital beds.
Strong Memorial Hospital has an influx of what is called alternate level care (ALC) patients. Those are patients with acute care needs who need to be put in a long-term care facility. However, there is nowhere to put those patients as of now.
UR Medicine Director of Social Work & Patient/Family Services, Kelly Luther said this is a struggle across our region but she can only speak to Strong Memorial Hospital’s experience.
“The long term care beds in the community, they are suffering great staffing shortages, they’re trying their very best, but they simply don’t have staff long term care beds for us to move patients into,” Luther said.
In turn, those patients are taking up space in the hospital which prevents healthcare providers from caring for incoming patients in the way the system is designed to perform. Luther said is an everyday struggle.
“It’s an enormous strain. Our focus is on delivering excellent patient care, regardless of the level of care, but recognizing it’s a huge strain to our emergency department,” Luther said.
Luther explained prior to the pandemic the number of patients awaiting nursing home placement was around 20, but now that number is between 70 and 90.
Strong is re-evaluating patients on an individual basis every day to see if an alternative to nursing home placement is available but that alone is not enough. According to Monroe County Health Commissioner, Dr. Michael Mendoza, the county has reconvened its long-term care task force to find solutions.
“My hope is, in the coming weeks, we’ll have something better to offer, but there is no question that this is having an impact on our community and our nursing homes. I think that’s why it’s even more important for people to stay out of the hospital for things that they can stay out of the hospital for,” Dr. Mendoza said.
Luther said the route to fix long-term care facility staffing shortages requires rebuilding new pipelines to healthcare.
“We also have to think about the reimbursement and the pay. And those are all things that are being addressed at different tables throughout the state throughout the country, certainly in our own community and training programs. How do we intrigue individuals into these care roles when what they’ve seen over the last two years is challenging to think about? How do we think creatively about attracting them back?” Luther said.
Officials from URMC want to reiterate they’re working diligently to find creative solutions to these problems, but add in the meantime the community should still expect quality care.