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'We Have Folks Working 100-Hour Workweeks': Minnesota's Long-Term Care Facilities Reach Critically Low Staffing

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Health care experts are sharing a worrisome outlook on the viability of some long-term care facilities in Minnesota.

These facilities were at the center of the COVID-19 crisis. In the beginning, they were caring for Minnesota's most vulnerable and finding ways to keep patients healthy while dealing with a PPE shortage.

Now it's transitioned into a staffing crisis that has a ripple effect on families.

"We have had chronic workforce shortages, but we've never had crisis-level shortages, and that's where we're at," said Patti Cullen, CEO of Care Providers of MN.

Cullen says there are 23,000 open positions or 20% of the workforce.

"Those who are in our buildings are burnt out that are coming into work. We have folks working 100-hour workweeks, lots of doubles, so they're tired," said Cullen.

It's resulted in 70% of facilities across the state limiting admissions in some way. That burdens hospitals, with longer patient stays and limits options for families looking to place a loved one in a care facility.

"And that's heartbreaking for us because we know they're usually acting in a moment of crisis," said Cullen.

In addition, Cullen says 26 facilities report that they are in "the red", or in danger of closing. They say they're working on solutions to keep them open, and patients cared for.

"We can't just close without finding a place for them to live, so we need to do some planning," Cullen said.

That includes working with the health department and legislative leaders. They hope this next special session will lead to higher, livable wages for workers.

They're proposing federal dollars be used for strike teams, similar to when the National Guard stepped in, to plug holes until there's a long-term solution.

"I think a lot of people aren't sleeping at night," said Cullen.

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