Minnesota long-term care workforce facing staffing crisis

(ABC 6 News) – The state of Minnesota is facing a crisis in the long-term elder care sector.

A recent survey by Minnesota’s two senior care provider associations shows employee numbers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are reaching their breaking point.

To those still working in the sector, the situation looks dire. They’re desperately in need of funding for facilities across the state and if they don’t receive it from the Minnesota legislature before their 2023 session is over. Things could get even worse.

“It is important for people not in long term care to understand that without lawmakers budgeting for wage increases for nursing homes and assisted living settings,” said Kari Thurlow of LeadingAge Minnesota. “Long term care providers really don’t have funds to do wage increases on their own.”

With employee numbers dwindling in long term care facilities across the state, people in need of care are frequently being turned away.

The survey conducted by the coalition called, Minnesota’s Long-Term Care Imperative, showed that back in March of this year, 14,000 applicants to nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state were rejected by caretakers.

The Southeast Minnesota region had the second highest number of declined referrals per nursing home with an average of 25, only behind the Twin Cities average of 28.1 per nursing home.

“We need to be able to take care of the people we have moved in,” said Sue Knutson Mission Leader of Samaritan Bethel. “We need to make sure we have adequate staffing and so we can only have so many people live here. It’s difficult because we’re also getting calls from all over the place because people are trying to place residents where every they can find a place.”

Their biggest fear moving forward is what the elder care sector could look like if the Minnesota Legislature does not take action in the final three week of the session.

“It’s hard to think about how many of us are going to need services and its just not going to be there,” Knutson said.

“Our greatest fear is that lawmakers will go home without addressing this crisis,” concluded Thurlow.

The current edition of the Minnesota House’s budget proposal does not include any funding for nursing homes and addressing their work force needs. The State Senate however, has addressed the issue to some degree in their budget bill. But both chambers still need to hammer out the details, and vote on a final budget by the end of the session.