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Some nursing homes struggling to fill job vacancies, Austin Public Health says

The Austin-Travis County interim health authority said nursing homes are already chronically understaffed under normal circumstances.

AUSTIN, Texas — As Austin Public Health works to contain COVID-19 outbreaks at several nursing homes and long-term care facilities, it is also focused on bringing in on some much-needed help.

According to Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott, some of the nursing homes hit the hardest by the outbreaks in the Austin area are struggling to hire new people.

"We're hearing from nursing homes through our task force that a nurse assistant who may normally make $14 an hour at a facility, that position is now being offered at $24 an hour in some facilities that [are] experiencing outbreaks and they still cannot find individuals to fill those spots," Dr. Escott said.

This is concerning, Dr. Escott said, because nursing homes are already chronically understaffed. 

RELATED: Some nursing home inspections have been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic

When there's a COVID-19 outbreak and the residents get sick, the staff will likely get sick, too. And as those staff members self-isolate, that could mean patients won't get the help they need because the resident-to-nurse ratio is imbalanced.

"If we want to be serious about really reinforcing those who are most at risk, we've got to have the State and the federal government intervene to really strengthen those resources, strengthen those defenses so that we can get on top of this issue and hopefully prevent further spread as unnecessary deaths in these facilities," Dr. Escott said.

To help solve this issue, the City is getting the State's help to send what it calls "strike teams" to four of the facilities with the most substantial outbreaks.

Those teams include doctors and nurses, maintenance workers and kitchen staff, for example. The teams also provide more personal protective equipment, and the State will help foot the bill.

RELATED: 'It's nonsense' | City and State officials still won't name nursing homes with coronavirus outbreaks

"I think the goal here is to not utilize current nursing home staffing from other locations, but introduce new staffing from clinics or surgical hospitals or even the State or National Guard that maybe augment without creating that cascade effect at other facilities," Dr. Escott said.

KVUE asked for the names of the four Austin facilities with the biggest outbreaks, but a City spokesperson said the City can't share that information.

WATCH: COVID-19 in Texas nursing homes: No answers about affected facilities


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