Maine has third-largest nursing shortage at long-term care facilities

Maine has the third-largest percentage of nursing staff shortages at long-term care facilities in the nation, according to a new report.

The study by Seniorly, an online platform that connects people with senior living options and resources, found that nearly 38% of nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Maine are reporting nursing shortages this year – a more than 18% increase from 2020 when the pandemic began.

“Generally, most states have had periods of intense staffing shortages at long-term care facilities, both overall and for specific jobs, and 2022 is shaping up to be rough in many places across the country when it comes to finding qualified workers at nursing homes and assisted living communities,” the report’s authors wrote.

Maine is among a group of states – including Minnesota and Washington – experiencing higher-than-normal levels of staffing shortages at long-term care facilities.

While only about 3% of long-term care facilities nationally are experiencing a shortage of clinical staff, including physicians, physician assistants and advanced practice nurses this year, that rate is almost 12% in Maine, the report noted.

The analysis, which is based on data published by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, noted that residents and staff at long-term care facilities accounted for about 23% of COVID-19 deaths nationally as of January, which has contributed to staffing shortages that existed before the pandemic.

“This has led to a record number of workers quitting,” the report noted. “As baby boomers continue to age, this has created an enormous hole for American seniors and their families in need of quality long-term care.”

Like most states, Maine is experiencing a shortage of health-care workers amid a hiring crunch, COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and concerns about the ongoing pandemic.

Last year, Gov. Janet Mills rolled out a new plan aimed at addressing a pressing shortage of nurses and other health-care workers in the state.

The plan, which is pending before the state Legislature, calls for spending about $14 million in pandemic relief funds on recruitment and retainment initiatives aimed at boosting the number of health-care workers and improving employment benefits for those already working in the field.

The health care sector is one of Maine’s largest industries, employing thousands of workers, but Mills said “for too long” the system has “had to grapple with a shortage of workers and the pandemic has only made the problem worse.”