Governor Ricketts Loosens Healthcare Training Restrictions To Combat Understaffing During Pandemic

March 31, 2020 - 5:06pm

Nursing homes across Nebraska are bracing for potential COVID-19 cases, which could lead to quarantining workers. Some facilities are hoping to temper long-running staffing issues with loosened training requirements.

Nebraska’s unemployment numbers have been low for the past few years. According to Heath Boddy of the Nebraska Health Care Association, that’s led to consistent staffing issues within the state’s long term care system.

“And this whole idea of a pandemic of this coronavirus has just, you know, put the pressure of that really on steroids,” he remarked.

Now, Boddy worries too few workers could have dire implications in the event of an outbreak: who would care for residents if an already small staff was quarantined?

The state's first significant outbreak at a longterm care facility has unfolded over the past two weeks at Carter House in Blair, Nebraska: several care providers and residents have been quarantined after positive COVID-19 tests.

The Department of Health and Human Services ultimately decided alongside Three Rivers Public Health Department and Carter House to temporarily close the facility and move its residents elsewhere.

But in the event of a less extensive outbreak, Governor Ricketts has opened a new path for facilities looking to bolster their staffing during the pandemic. Carers originally needed 76 hours of training before starting work. Now, they’ll only need eight.

“They have to be competent, that's part of the regulations," Ricketts said. "It’s just loosening up some of the requirements so that we can get those people in and make sure they're getting the training faster.”

While Ricketts maintained the quality of workers would still be regulated, Ricketts didn't mention whether the new rules will involve maintaining background checks on applicants. But Boddy thinks loosening regulations could be a game changer for nursing homes battling outbreaks across the state: he pitched the idea to the state days ago.

The new rules last from now until thirty days after the state’s emergency declaration is lifted.

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