AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Health care workers and patients who need at-home care are asking for $412 million of the state’s $16 billion in federal COVID-19 relief, pointing to dire staffing shortages worsened by the pandemic.
“I’m here today, because my daughter is sitting in a hospital at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, because the private duty nursing situation in Texas is failing her,” Brian Broadbent said outside the Capitol Tuesday.
His 5-year-old daughter Emma depends on a ventilator and needs at-home nursing, but her family has not been able to find one.
“We’ve been trying to hire a nurse for 16 weeks — have not had one single application. And when we went to the hospital last week, we sat in the ER for 21 hours, 12 hours waiting for a room,” Broadbent explained.
All at-home health care sectors report staffing shortages right now, ranging from attendants to developmental services like speech therapists.
“I’ve told the mother of a 10-week-old infant who can’t swallow that we likely won’t be able to see their child for another four months,” Houston speech therapist Vicki Gilani said Tuesday. “Since when is it okay to deny someone access to medically necessary care for the ability to eat for four months?”
Unlike hospitals and nursing homes, the home care industry has not received any relief from the state.
“I’m with Angels of Care Pediatric Home Health, and we service seven states in the U.S. right now. And every other state that we’re in has provided COVID relief for home care. Texas is the only one that has not,” Kristen Robinson, who also serves as president of the Texas Association for Home Care and Hospice, said Tuesday.
“Overall for our agency, we were able to staff around 90% of the hours that were authorized. And since all of the COVID effects have hit us, we’re running about 50 to 60% of staffed hours,” Robinson explained.
That’s why the association is asking state legislators to carve out some of the federal COVID relief money for home care agencies.
“With this funding, we can ensure adequate supplies of PPE for staff and families. And we can offer competitive employment opportunities for nurses and therapists that have currently left home care for more lucrative positions in the hospitals or even traveled positions outside of Texas,” Robinson said.
Dina Abramson has had an attendant helping her for the past 20 years and says she’s noticed the impact of the shortage.
“I am very fortunate that my disability is not as severe as some other people. I’m pretty independent, but all of these extra shifts are taking a toll on her,” Abramson said, explaining her current attendant is being stretched thin.
“Other attendants just aren’t showing up. Sometimes they are able to get somebody, but that person doesn’t do a good job. And so the client will call my attendant and say, you know, somebody came and worked for me, but now I can’t reach things that I need, or they didn’t put my clothes on. She’s very dedicated, and she doesn’t want anybody to be uncomfortable or to not have what they need. So she goes and helps,” Abramson said.
Abramson said she wishes more Texans would realize how desperately the industry needs help.
“I think it’s very important to emphasize, unfortunately, that anybody is one step away from being in this situation. You have a stroke, you have a heart attack, you have some sort of accident where you lose an arm or a leg or something. Everybody needs to think about and work towards, because it can happen to you, or it can happen to somebody that you care about,” she said.