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WI Caregiver Shortage: A Safety Risk for Patients?

A new report says Wisconsin continues to see caregiver vacancies, even with the state's older population projected to increase 112% in the next 20 years. (Adobe Stock)
A new report says Wisconsin continues to see caregiver vacancies, even with the state's older population projected to increase 112% in the next 20 years. (Adobe Stock)
February 26, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- Advocates for Wisconsin seniors and people with disabilities say those who live in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities may be at higher safety risk after a new report confirms caregiver shortages across the state.

A handful of provider associations have issued survey results that say one in four direct caregiver positions is vacant, an increase from one in five vacancies noted in the same report two years ago.

John Vander Meer, chief executive of the Wisconsin Health Care Association and Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living, said it also coincides with facility closures.

"Since 2016, nearly 40 facilities have closed," he said, "and that's going to lead to significant access issues."

The report said Wisconsin's low Medicaid reimbursement rate is a barrier to boosting wages and keeping operating costs down. The two-year state budget approved last year included a rate increase, but Vander Meer said more is needed. Meanwhile, care advocates have said they're worried that both residents and staff at these facilities are feeling the effects of caregivers being stretched too thin.

When people work double shifts or don't get the days off they need, said Janet Zander, public policy coordinator for the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources, it can't help but have a cumulative effect on their well-being, not to mention the people they're serving, "all of which impact any of those caregivers' ability to provide the quality care that they'd like to be able to provide."

The report authors not only suggested higher reimbursement rates, but they want the state to reduce the required training hours for Certified Nursing Assistants from 120 to 75, saying it would bring Wisconsin in line with neighboring states. However, Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill to reduce CNA training hours, saying it would impact the quality of care.

The report is online at leadingagewi.org.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI