ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County leaders are setting aside $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, with hopes of helping area nursing homes. 

Staffing shortages continue to be a challenge in these facilities, partly contributing to a consistent backlog in hospitals, where older patients await placement.

It’s called a ‘Grant Contract’, with Finger Lakes Performing Provider System (FLPPS) for a Complex Care Program. Officials said this is modeled after a successful program in Syracuse.

Leaders said during county legislature meeting Tuesday, local nursing homes agree to take on a cohort of patients from hospitals in exchange for the money.

It works as an incentive for nursing homes, to raise wages, add on shifts, training programs, or whatever they need to improve staffing shortages.

The hope then is, this will also alleviate backup in area hospitals.

County Executive Adam Bello says, if you’ve been in a hospital recently — you know. They’re backed up, due to various reasons throughout the pandemic.

But the biggest one now:

“Hospitals are holding onto hundreds of what are referred to as ALC patients, that really don’t need acute care setting of a hospital, but really need to be in more of a nursing home setting,” he said.

Beds available in nursing homes, but not enough staff. That’s where they’re putting ARPA dollars to use. Maplewood Nursing Home says the money certainly could help — but what about long-term solutions?

“You’ve got these hard to place patients, and a situation where both hospitals and nursing homes are really hurting for staff, there aren’t staff, not like there’s a pool you can draw from,” said Greg Chambery, administrator for Maplewood Nursing home.

Incentives, like sign-on bonuses, sometimes aren’t enough, he says. People have to really be drawn to the work, intuitively.

“Because it takes a heart for this type of thing, you have to have a heart to be a nurse, the right kind of people to begin with,” he said.

News 8 reached out to doctors at local nursing programs, who say they’re working to reach younger people – in high school and even middle school. They’re also working to encourage students to find long-term jobs.

“Nurses are saying I can leave what used to be a loyalty to institution to become a travel nurse and make twice or three times the money,” said Dr. Mary Dahl Maher, Chief of Nursing for Nazareth College.

“Hospitals need to value nurses who care for people at the bedside with the same amount of respect that they have historically recognized,” she said.

“What we need to do is concentrate on the people currently working keep them in the industry,” said Dr. Robert Dorman, Director of Nursing for Roberts Wesleyan. “Bring it to the younger people interested in getting into nursing.”

Dorman said they’re also working to educate younger students about recognizing burnout in themselves, and others, and how to self-care.

Of the several nursing homes News 8 reached out to on Wednesday, Jewish Senior Life responded, offering the following statement:

We are pleased to be a part of the community collaboration with our hospital system partners. It is wonderful that Monroe County has taken a leadership role in providing grant funding to help with the challenges that all health care providers are facing in the greater Rochester area.

Nursing homes are a vital part of the health care delivery system. The significant underfunding of New York State nursing homes with Medicaid reimbursement must be addressed as part of the overall strategy to fix the current broken health care delivery system in New York State.

— Michael King, President and CEO of Jewish Senior Life.

Rochester Regional Health also released the following statement:

“Hospitals in the Rochester region, including those within our Rochester Regional Health system, can maintain adequate patient capacity by discharging patients who no longer need acute care, but who still need specialized care, to skilled nursing facilities, or nursing homes.  COVID-related stresses have made it difficult to attract and retain enough qualified staff at many post-acute facilities, making it so they cannot accept some of those hospital discharge patients—especially those who need more complex and costly care.

In a recent count, we found more than 1,150 vacant Skilled Nursing Facility beds in Monroe County, while the number of hospital patients medically ready for discharge from hospitals continues to grow.

The Monroe County Legislature’s approved use of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to aid nursing homes is a significant step toward solving this serious problem.  We’re happy to partner with the Finger Lakes Performing Provider System (FLPPS) that is trying to help alleviate the labor shortage so post-acute facilities can accept more patients, thus freeing up hospital beds to ensure adequate system capacity for acute-care patients. This was a wise and necessary action to protect the health and well-being of our Monroe County community.”

— Jennifer Eslinger, President, Health Care Operations and Chief Operating Officer, Rochester Regional Health, and Interim President of Rochester General Hospital