Number of nursing assistants in state rapidly declining

  • Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, stretches the thin cloth band of a surgical mask, which was received in a shipment from the federal government, outside Webster at Rye senior care center on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, in Rye, N.H. The surgical masks which break when stretched, child-sized examination gloves and isolation gowns with no sleeve openings for hands make up the bulk of the personal protective equipment recently sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to New Hampshire nursing homes, according to Williams. The facility is not using the items they received from FEMA. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

Monitor staff
Published: 10/26/2020 4:38:30 PM

Thousands of licensed nursing assistants in the state have allowed their licenses to lapse in the last year, leaving nursing homes in a precarious staffing situation, according to newly released data from the New Hampshire Board of Nursing.

Between June 2019 and May 2020, 2,381 nursing assistants allowed their licenses to lapse while only 1,672 new licenses were issued, ultimately creating a loss of 709 LNAs.

Shortages of staff in nursing homes have long been a problem in New Hampshire. Low Medicaid reimbursement rates in the state make it difficult for facilities to keep their salaries competitive.

Brendan Williams, the president of the New Hampshire Healthcare Association, said facilities can typically afford to pay LNAs about $15.50 an hour, whereas Hobby Lobby pays entry-level workers $17 an hour without 100 hours of required training.

Williams said the pandemic has exacerbated the staffing shortage. When outbreaks of COVID-19 started appearing at homes across the state, many facilities had staff members quit out of fear of contracting the virus.

Furthermore, the programs that train new nursing assistants were put on pause to limit the number of visitors in nursing homes, effectively cutting off the homes’ supply of new staff.

New Hampshire established the Long Term Stabilization program in early April, which granted $300 weekly stipends to full-time frontline health care workers and $150 to part-time workers. The program was established to incentivize frontline workers to continue working even as COVID-19 spread through the homes. However, the program ended at the end of July, due to a lack of federal support for the state’s budget, according to a statement from Chris Sununu’s office.

“Long-term care facilities are paying more than they can afford, and the incredible losses they’re sustaining due to COVID-19 are going to hasten closures and fire sales,” Williams said in a press release. “We’re circling down the drain and I can’t see the bottom.”

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