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Staff shortages at nursing homes are backing up healthcare process

Dr. Nancy Nielsen discusses the overcapacity of patients at area hospitals with WBFO.

With the notable exception of Mercy Hospital where workers have been striking for nearly two weeks, the region's acute care hospitals have too many patients.

"All of the regional hospitals are over capacity," said Dr. Nancy Nielsen, Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Nielsen outlined the issue during her regular appearance with WBFO.

The patients capacity levels at area hospitals range from 110 to 130 percent.

"Some patients have had to be sent to Rochester or to Pittsburgh to get care."

While there are many factors at play, Nielsen points to the staffing issues at nursing homes.

"Non-acute patients can't be moved out (of hospitals) so there are 30 to 40 patients who can't go to long-term facilities" which currently don't have enough staff to handle the caseload.

"Obviously the stress, the pay," Nielsen says are weighing heavily on nursing home workers. "But, really, right now, it's the number of workers who haven't been vaccinated."

New York State requires all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

"This is a downstream effect that is becoming a real crisis in terms of hospitalizations in our region," said Nielsen who added local hospitals are working together to try to alleviate the situation.

Nielsen acknowledges how the pandemic has placed the spotlight on the important role nursing homes and rehabilitation centers play in the healthcare system. At the heart of it sits the workers to whom she offers a plea.

"Please. Please get vaccinated. Protect yourself. get back to your job and let's try to get through this."