Senior care organizations signal alarm bell on staffing shortage

Updated 4:15 p.m.

A SURVEY of 77 nursing homes conducted by two of Rhode Island's senior care organizations revealed that the state's long-term senior care facilities are facing a crisis of a staffing shortage requiring the immediate need for funding. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ TRACY JENKINS

PROVIDENCE Two senior care organizations say that the labor shortage hampering Rhode Island’s long-term care facilities, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, has created a crisis scenario.

The R.I. Health Care Association and LeadingAge R.I. unveiled the results of a survey taken on Nov. 1. The survey included surveying the state’s 77 nursing facilities, all of which responded.

The organizations are hoping that Gov. Daniel J. McKee and the Rhode Island legislature utilize some of the $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds and/or the state’s $618 million in budget surplus to fund solutions for staffing recruitment and retention.

Jim Nyberg, executive director of LeadingAge R.I., said it was the first time all respondents replied to a survey, which are created on an ad hoc basis. LeadingAge R.I. serves as an advocate for the state’s nonprofit senior care facilities, while R.I. Health Care Association represents for-profit facilities.

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“The response shows the extent of the concern out there,” said Nyberg, who has worked at the organization for 13 years and noted that the survey was specific to staffing. “This is the worst I have seen it since I have been here.”

What the survey of staffing revealed was a shortage that could cripple the senior care industry, which Nyberg said has already begun.

The impact is tangible, as 28 facilities have shut down rooms or units due to the staffing shortage, with 23 additional facilities closing its new admissions over the last three months, and 71% now limiting the number of admissions they will accept.

There are 1,920 open positions in the state’s nursing homes, accounting for 18.3% of the 10,495 employees needed to service all of the facilities. There are also 983 openings for Certified Nursing Assistants, and 447 openings for Registered and Licensed Practical Nurses.

Nyberg said that between the federal ARPA dollars and the budget surplus it is a good time to try to fund solutions for long-term senior care needs.

“Without proper funding, adequate training and available CNA testing sites in the state, the workforce challenges facing the industry will only get worse,” he said.

John Gage, president of the R.I. Health Care Association said, “The result of this survey quantifies what we already knew, Rhode Island nursing homes are facing the fight of their lives and the future of long-term care for Rhode Island’s most vulnerable citizens stands in the balance.”

A spokesperson for McKee did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the survey findings.

(ADDS last paragraph on effort to get comment from governor’s office.)

Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at You may also follow him on Twitter @CassiusShuman.

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