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Idaho Nursing Homes Face Staffing Crisis

AP Images
A nurse talks to resident Francoise Berkenheim at the Im Laeusch nursing home in Strasbourg, eastern France, Wednesday Aug.19, 2020.

Idaho’s strained Veterans Affairs long term care system recently secured $2 million in federal funds to help with its staffing shortages. But other assisted living facilities have not received aid they say is desperately needed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the biggest toll on one group: residents of assisted living facilities. The mostly elderly residents have accounted for nearly half of the more than 800 deaths in Idaho.

Employees, too, have been hard hit and these residences are struggling to stay staffed.

“It's across all nursing facilities, all assisted living facilities,” said Robert Vande Merwe, executive director of the Idaho Health Care Association, which represents long term care and nursing homes. “Staffing is really at a crisis level.”

Because of the job risks, he says, it’s been difficult to recruit new employees. Hazard pay and bonuses would help, but Vande Merwe says there’s been no help from the state or federal government.

So many employees have been out sick that Vande Merwe’s organization created a website for volunteers to sign up to help. So far, more than 100 have responded. But Vande Merwe says they need even more.

Follow Heath Druzin on Twitter, @HDruzin

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