SC nursing homes grapple with staffing as they surpass grim death toll

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 7:50 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Nursing homes in South Carolina are trying to contain COVID-19, and many homes are doing it short-handed.

DHEC data shows the virus has killed more than 1,500 long-term care resident deaths (1,524 as of Nov. 17th).

The AARP published a report on Nov. 13 that shows 30.8% of state facilities are short-handed with their health care staffers through Oct. 18.

The same report shows the COVID-19 cases rate and death rate in the facilities are declining, but 19.5% of homes are still without a week’s supply of PPE.

S.C. AARP Associate State Director for Advocacy Nikki Hutchison commended Gov. Henry McMaster and state leaders for their actions in curbing COVID-19 in the homes, but said more manpower is needed in the facilities.

“To again, make certification more readily available, pay people more to attract them into this field, and create a workforce that’s able to step in, in these dire conditions,” she said.

Hutchison said the organization is looking to partner with the governor and state leaders to take on the issue, but she did not have a specific initiative as a solution.

Robin Strickland is the daughter of an Upstate long-term care facility patient.

WIS is withholding the mother’s name and the name of her facility for the sake of the mother’s privacy.

Strickland said staffing has been an issue at the home, and it’s translated to poor care for her mother.

“She waits two to three hours sometimes to go to the bathroom because they’re just short of staff. A lot of people have (sic) left, most of the ones I knew have gone,” she said.

She went on to state:

“She’s sad, she says she’s ready to die. She said she’d rather die of COVID than live the rest of her life like this.”

Randy Lee, the president of the S.C. State Health Care Association did not respond to requests for comment.

His association claims to represent 90% of the facilities in the state.

Gov. McMaster’s spokesperson sent the following statement:

“There’s no component of the state’s response to the pandemic that the governor has placed more attention and focus on than protecting those in nursing homes and long term care facilities. We know that the elderly are our most vulnerable population, and the governor - along with DHEC and other partners - are in frequent contact about this ever-evolving situation.”

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