Elected officials mark two years of the COVID-19 pandemic by working alongside caregivers, serving residents amid a workforce crisis
Greensburg, Pa. (March 17, 2022) –– The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the workforce crisis in long-term care, overwhelming the remaining workforce and jeopardizing access to care for seniors and adults with disabilities throughout Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) held a Day of Caring on Thursday at Hempfield Manor skilled nursing facility in Greensburg to mark the second anniversary of the start of the pandemic. PHCA’s Day of Caring shines a spotlight on the workforce crisis while providing support for nursing home caregivers.
PHCA President and CEO Zach Shamberg was joined by Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (Westmoreland), Representative Eric Nelson (Westmoreland) and members of Congressman Guy Reschenthaler’s staff (PA-14), each of whom rolled up their sleeves and volunteered to work alongside frontline workers caring for nursing home residents.
“This small gesture could not possibly express the level of gratitude and appreciation we all have for the men and women on the frontlines of the pandemic, and the care they provide each and every day,” said Shamberg. “We are here today to remind them that, even though they may no longer hear ‘healthcare heroes’ wherever they go, what they’ve done these past two years is nothing short of heroic.”
In an industry that is served predominantly by women (94% female in Pennsylvania), Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward reflected on March being Women’s History Month and how resilient and strong the nursing home workforce has been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She reiterated to the frontline workers in attendance that she is grateful for their contributions and service to their community.
“The pandemic had significant effects on all of our lives, and I am truly appreciative of the workers on the front lines, that went to work, took care of and continue to care for our loved ones all while helping to manage through their own lives and the lives of their families,” said Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward. “In an industry dominated by women, I understand all too well what it means to juggle work, life and family, and I am grateful and proud of the contributions by the women in this industry who have enriched the lives of our families, our communities, and our economy when we sometimes could not.”
Representative Eric Nelson, having recently attended PHCA’s workforce summit in search of staffing solutions, knows first-hand the challenges long-term care is facing and the need for more support to ensure access to care can continue.
“Our workforce shortage has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is particularly true when considering the heroes who work day-to-day with our seniors,” Representative Eric Nelson said. “As we move beyond the pandemic, our communities should never forget how hard these folks worked during one of the most complex times in American history.”
As workforce challenges in Pennsylvania rapidly grow, long-term care providers are being forced to turn away vulnerable seniors in need of care. Access to senior care in Pennsylvania is a new crisis and could become alarmingly worse as providers struggle with financial viability. PHCA has launched the Who Will Care? advocacy campaign in support of a Pennsylvania Medicaid increase for nursing home residents. An increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates will support an increase in worker wages, workforce recruitment and infrastructure investments.
“For too long, Pennsylvania — a state with one of the oldest populations in the country — has failed to invest in care for our seniors,” Shamberg said. “Our state needs to do more to serve our fastest-growing demographic. This year’s state budget must address the current Medicaid shortfall that exists in senior care, and that cannot be done with stimulus funds or one-time fixes. Without recurring funding — without an additional $35 more per resident per day — Pennsylvania will not have the infrastructure left to care for its residents.”
During PHCA’s Day of Caring, PHCA staff and elected leaders volunteered by serving lunch to more than 100 residents at Hempfield Manor. While the volunteers worked, the frontline caregivers at Hempfield Manor were treated to a catered lunch from a local food vendor. PHCA also provided gift cards to Hempfield Manor that could be used for appreciation meals for workers on opposite shifts.
For more information on careers in long-term care, visit pennsylvania.carefortheaging.org.
Erica Clayton Wright, firstname.lastname@example.org, (412) 334-4856 (Majority Leader Kim Ward)
Eric Heisler, email@example.com, 717-678-1031 (PHCA)