David Gifford, MD In testimony to the Senate Finance Committee hearing, “A National Tragedy: COVID-19 in the Nation’s Nursing Homes,” American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) Chief Medical Officer David Gifford, MD, told lawmakers the workforce crisis in the profession is directly tied to reimbursement gaps between what it costs to care for residents and what providers are paid. 

He said the association appreciated the fact the committee was asking important questions resulting from the pandemic and the corresponding national tragedy, as well as lawmakers’ interest in efforts to improve the care provided in U.S. nursing homes.

“One of these primary challenges is how to tackle the workforce crisis in long term care. The need to attract and retain more quality caregivers to serve our nation’s most vulnerable could not be more paramount than it is right now,” Gifford said.

“While we support efforts to offer more competitive wages as well as increase the number of staff at the bedside, we cannot hope to accomplish this without a considerable investment in our long term care system.”

He noted that as a labor-intensive health care provider that relies almost entirely on government reimbursement (Medicare and Medicaid), nursing homes need the support of policymakers and resources to make workforce improvements.

“That is why the Care For Our Seniors Act—a reform plan we issued alongside LeadingAge—offers a comprehensive approach to how Congress and other policymakers can prioritize long term care in order to help our facilities better compete for highly dedicated and trained caregivers,” he said.

In addition, Gifford said AHCA/NCAL is seeking to improve the care provided in nursing homes by addressing poor care and how to incentivize better care.

The Care For Our Seniors Act looks at how the profession can address chronic poor performing facilities, no matter their business structure. “We need to identify why certain facilities are persistently struggling, get involved with these facilities, and if they don’t improve, they should not continue to operate.”

Gifford said AHCA/NCAL supports transparency of federal resources directed to nursing homes. But the most meaningful way to improve care is by focusing on infection control and increasing workforce availability, so more nurses and caregivers can help create great outcomes for residents.

“We look forward to a continued conversation with lawmakers on how we can work collaboratively to make nursing homes a priority, address these systemic challenges, and ensure a stronger long term care system moving forward,” he said.

Read Gifford’s full testimony here and details of the hearing at https://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/a-national-tragedy-covid-19-in-the-nations-nursing-homes.