Minnesota healthcare providers still reeling 4 years after start of pandemic

Four years after Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems are still experiencing long-term impacts.

LeadingAge Minnesota says the senior care sector is experiencing record retirements and resignations, as caregivers continue to reel from the trauma of working through the pandemic.

"Everything that was occurring through the pandemic quite frankly financially devastated a lot of senior care organizations—they haven’t recovered—and we lost a lot of workforce," said Kari Thurlow, President and CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota. "We are still experiencing record resignations and retirements in our field."

Thurlow said nursing homes across Minnesota have a 20% staffing vacancy rate. She says while most of the country has moved on, they are still suffering.

"It's not a function that we don’t have open beds, it's not a function that we don’t have open units, we don’t have people."

Industry groups are currently asking the state legislature for special funding that would allow them to offer caregivers a pay increase and, hopefully, attract new applicants.

Hospitals are facing the same struggles, although Joy Plamann, the Chief Operating Officer at CentraCare, said they can reflect on the pandemic with some positive takeaways.

"There are so many things that we can and need to continue to solve in healthcare and we’re using those same tools that we did during the pandemic at a little bit of a different pace," said Plamann.

Plamann said the way all the hospital systems worked together at that time was an innovative and inspiring lesson.

"Normally we are competitors… but we had to figure out a way to serve our patients," she said.

 "What we’ve learned and how we’ve changed as an entire healthcare system… will allow us to move into the next healthcare crisis that we have to solve in a very different way," she added.