Small-town nursing homes closing amid staffing crunch


WAUKON, Iowa – Marjorie Krueger was shocked to learn last fall that she would have to leave the nursing. home where she had lived comfortably for six years.

The Good Samaritan Society facility in Postville, Iowa, will close, administrators told Kruege. and 38 other residents in September. The facility joins a growing list of nursing homes closing nationwide, particularly in rural areas.

“The rug was pulled out from under me,” said Kruger, 98. “I thought I’d be there for the rest of my life.”

Her son found a home for her at another Good Samaritan center in Wacon, a small town 18 miles north of Postville. Krueger said the new facility is a pleasant place, but he misses his friends and longtime employees from the old one. “We were as close as a beautiful family,” he said.

The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society nursing. home in Postville, Iowa, closed in November. It was the only nursing home in the town of 2,500 and one of at least 15 care centers that closed in Iowa last year. Tony Leys / KHN

Owners say the closings stem largely from staff shortages. including nurses, nursing assistants and kitchen staff.

The problem could deepen as pandemic-era government aid dries up and care benefits struggle to compete. With rising wages offered by other employers, industry leaders and analysts predict. Many care centers that have been able to stay open are keeping some. Beds empty because they don’t have enough staff to responsibly care for more residents.

The pandemic has brought billions of additional federal dollars to the long-term care industry. MAnd the deaths of more than 160,000 residents. Many facilities have seen a decline in business amid the lockdown and reports of outbreaks. Staff members face additional hazards and pressures.

The industry is still feeling the impact.

From February 2020 to November 2021, the number of workers in nursing homes. And other care facilities fell by 410,000 nationally, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since then, staffing has rebounded by about 103,000.

According to the Iowa Health Care Association, 13 of the 15 nursing homes closing in 2022 were in rural areas. “In more sparsely populated areas, it’s harder. And harder to staff these facilities,” said association president Brent Willett. He noted that the number of working-age adults in many rural areas is declining.

A shortage of open nursing-home beds is keeping some patients in hospitals for weeks while social workers look for placements. More people are moving to care facilities far from their hometowns, especially. If they need extra attention for dementia, obesity or other conditions.

Kim Beamestefer, Colorado’s executive director of health care policy and financing, told. Aconference in November that the state recognizes that care facilities, especially in rural areas, need to be shored up. “We’ve had more nursing home bankruptcies in the last year than in the last 10 years combined,” he said.


Nationally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that 129 nursing. Homes will close in 2022. Mark Parkinson, president of the American Healthcare Association, . Said the actual number is significantly higher but federal reports lag behind what’s happening. the ground

For example, a recent KHN review shows that the federal agency counted only one of 11 Montana nursing home closings reported. By news outlets in that state in 2022, and only eight of 15 reported in Iowa.

Demand for long-term care is expected to climb over the next decade as the baby boom generation ages. Willett said his industry supports changing immigration. Laws to allow more workers from other countries. “It has to be part of the solution,” he said.

The nursing home in Postville, Iowa, was one of 10 care centers closed in the past year by Good Samaritan Society, a large chain based in South Dakota.

“It’s an absolute last resort for us, a nonprofit organization that in many cases can. Be in these communities for 50 to 75 years or more,” said company CEO Nat Schema.

The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, the company’s full name. And people receiving services in their homes. About 70% of them live in rural areas, mainly in the Plains states and the Midwest, Schema said.

Schema said many front-line workers at nursing homes have found work less stressfu. After working through the worst days of the Covid pandemic. When they had to wear extra protective gear.

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