States Implement COVID-19 Short-Term Critical Staff Redeployment Programs

Workforce | December 21, 2020 | by Andrea Price-Carter

Washington and Minnesota are providing short-term nursing staff to address staff or resident COVID outbreaks that threatens the ability of the facility to meet the ongoing needs of the residents.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the high positivity rates in communities across the country are placing several long-term care (LTC) facility residents and staff at greater risk of testing positive. As community spread increases, many facilities are left with a crisis situation especially when front line staff are forced to quarantine due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure. To address this staffing support crisis a few states are proactively implementing short-term critical staff redeployment programs that would help alleviate scenarios where staff shortages could put caring for residents at risk.

Minnesota’s Governor Tim Waltz issued a request to all state employees on November 24, 2020, requesting volunteers for potential future redeployment to nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state that could make use of RNs, LPNs or Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA). The Governor’s request mentions there is no immediate need for redeployment and their goal is to launch in January 2021.

No prior experience is needed for those employees that are willing to volunteer for redeployment and the state will provide CNA training, if needed, prior to an assignment. All volunteers will be given personal protective equipment (PPE), along with training on how to use it. The state will keep all redeployed staff at their current pay rate and status. It’s also anticipated that redeployment could be up to 14 days and all costs associated with travel or temporary housing will be covered by the state.

In early December, the state of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA) implemented the “Rapid Response Short-Term Crisis Teams.” ALTSA has contracted with a temporary staffing agency to quickly provide support to supplement LTC and developmental disability facilities and agencies experiencing challenges caring for residents and clients. They have deployed six Rapid Response Teams consisting of a total of 8 LPNs, RNs and CNAs per team who will provide nursing and personal care aide support. An additional two teams are expected to be added in the coming months. CARES Act money has been allocated to cover the cost of these teams, including transportation, hotel and food expenses in addition to wages, through at least the first few months of 2021.

The teams have been stationed around the state in counties with the highest need based on virus reporting for a period. Should the teams not be needed for crisis staffing support they will be available to provide respite relief for exhausted facility staff. There is no charge to the facilities or agencies who are selected to use the program.

The teams have been very active since early December and one team, initially stationed on the east side of the state was moved to the west based on greater need. Facilities have reported positive experiences with the teams noting their level of competency and ability to flow into the practices and needs of the facility.

Providers can request the teams for any of the following reasons:

  • Staff or resident/client COVID outbreak that threatens the ability of the facility or agency to meet the ongoing needs of the residents or clients;
  • Situations where a facility or agency will significantly benefit from short-term respite for direct nursing and personal assistance staff; and
  • Facilities with a sudden and unexpected nursing and aide staff absences for COVID or other infectious disease related reasons that would threaten the ability to provide care or services to residents or clients.

If you would like to more information about the Rapid Response Short-term Crisis Team activities in Washington, contact Laura Hofmann, MSN, RN, Director of Clinical and Nursing Facility Regulatory Services, LeadingAge Washington, lhofmann@leadingagewa.org. Additional information about the rapid response team activities in Minnesota can be addressed by: Jenna Kellerman, Director of Workforce Solutions, LeadingAge Minnesota,  jkellerman@leadingagemn.org.