Advocates for nursing homes in New York are worried about staffing level requirements that may be difficult to meet.
It's a concern seen across the U.S. amid efforts to turn a corner during the COVID-19 pandemic: A loss of workers who have moved out of the workforce or on to other jobs.
"It's a very similar problem that the rest of the country is facing with all walks of life and all types of business," said Michael Balboni, the executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association.
But the problem grows when it's a sector of health care like nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where even before the pandemic, staffing has been a challenge.
"When you have a congregate care setting, with folks who are fragile, it is particularly pronounced," Balboni said. "But in New York state, it's a huge issue."
And while the problems started pre-pandemic, the crisis has not made the situation any better as hospitals compete for workers with the facilities.
"It was one horror show after another. And there was tremendous concern," Balboni said. "If you were a health care worker, all you saw for months was this concern about working within nursing homes and this tragedy and loss that happened."
Now, as a new staffing level law is set to take effect at the start of the year, Balboni says nursing homes need more help, including a raise in pay for their workers.
"We haven't had a cost of living for over a decade and of course, in the middle of the pandemic, New York decides to cut the Medicaid rate by 1.5%," he said.
And Balboni says New York should build on long-term ideas, such as encouraging more people to enter the health care field. The ideas come as Republican lawmakers in the Legislature have proposed similar measures to add staffing.
"We have to take care of the people who took care of us," Balboni said. "Let's do everything from a peace corps — let's get a commitment. We'll help you with your tuition. Get trained, come and work for a nursing home for three years, see if we can't get increased wages by increased investments."