Fresno County health officials worry nursing homes will be hit by staffing shortages soon

COVID-19 has swept through several skilled nursing facilities throughout the Central Valley, leaving many seniors feeling isolated and lonely.
FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Bringing joy to one of the most fragile and vulnerable groups in our community is the goal during the holidays and every day at Park Merced Assisted Living Center. But these days residents sit two to a table to dine, separated by plexiglass.

And they are the lucky ones. Some residents at other facilities with current COVID outbreaks are confined to their rooms.

It's not just the residents who are at risk.

At the Pacific Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Fresno, 105 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Now, health officials in Fresno County are predicting nursing facilities will be next to feel the impact of a healthcare worker shortage.

"Another wild card, which I keep reminding my team will no doubt play its hand probably at the most inopportune moment, is that skilled nursing facilities or long-term care facilities will have a staffing crisis. We're anticipating that," says Fresno County interim health director Dr. Rais Vohra.

COVID-19 has swept through several skilled nursing facilities throughout the Central Valley. It's left many seniors feeling isolated and lonely.

Amie Marchini owns multiple assisted living centers in Merced and is constantly exploring safe ways to keep her residents active, happy, and fulfilled during a season usually filled with visitors, treats, and Christmas cheer.

"The biggest negative impact I've seen on our residents is the lack of socialization. We've done everything we can to counteract that but we've had to close down to visitors and we've done a lot of FaceTimes and those types of things," Marchini says.

This year instead of seeing performances in person, staff at the Merced nursing facilities will instead show residents recorded performances to boost their spirits. In addition, some gifts are being allowed into the facility after they are sanitized.

Earlier this year, some local nursing homes reported a sharp decline in new residents but as the crisis has continued, it's started to pick up again.

Since the pandemic began, some nursing homes have had to hire additional employees - but not to care for their current residents but instead to take on new clients who want to be cared for in the comfort of their own home.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.