NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s being called an epidemic within a pandemic. Understaffed nursing homes leading to real life consequences for residents and their families.

Benjamin Moore knows the real-life impact of nursing home staff shortages.

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Moore’s father, Thomas, contracted COVID in a Bronx nursing home and soon became a victim of understaffing.

“By the time the COVID scare, with respect to my dad, I guess had waned somewhat, I feel like he was just kind of forgotten,” Moore told CBS2’s Jessica Moore, no relation. “He wasn’t getting enough nutrition, he wasn’t getting enough attention.”

Thomas Moore died in August 2020 at 75 years old.

According to the American Healthcare Association and National Center for Assisted Living, 75% of nursing homes report an overall “worsening situation with their workforce” in 2021, compared to last year. Nearly all members reported staffing shortages.

“I think it’s pretty devastating at this point. And until we have the government step in, we’re going to continue to see these shortages,” attorney Marilyn Chintz said.

The pandemic exacerbated the crisis, as nurses and nursing home assistants quit for financial or personal reasons.

No visitors at nursing homes meant no accountability, and many residents suffered.

“They are the ones who report if there’s a patient who is totally neglected with bed sores or a patient who is physically restrained. So now all of a sudden, that shut down,” said Chintz.

COVID VACCINE

Many nursing assistants and aides make just minimum wage.

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Elder care consultant Debbie Drelich said it’s a slap in the face and, sadly, sometimes it shows in the quality of care. One of her clients waited an hour to use the bathroom.

“When a nurse’s aide finally came, they said to her, ‘You have a diaper on, just make in the diaper,'” she said. “It’s horrible, horrible.”

New York State’s new vaccine mandate could make the problem worse. Gov. Kathy Hochul said all nursing home staff must be vaccinated by Monday or they will no longer be employed.

“These are the most vulnerable people, and those people deserve healthy workers who have taken every step they can to make sure they will not spread the virus to them,” she said.

The governor is actively preparing for an even greater shortage, working to secure temporary visas for international workers and adjust licensing requirements to bring in nurses from out of state.

“It’s not glamorous, but it’s crucial and essential work,” industry leader Michael Balboni said.

Balboni is working with his members to encourage vaccination, but says an increased shortage is inevitable.

“We need to go out and market to people and say, ‘Let’s take care of the people who took care of us,'” said Balboni, executive director of Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association.

He is also calling on the governor to reinvest federal dollars into long term care facilities.

“The state of New York cut funding in the face of a pandemic to long term care facilities, 1.5%,” he said. “So you need to reinvest and it’s from the Medicaid dollars.”

Benjamin Moore applauded the efforts, though they’re too late to matter for his family. He hopes the state reinvests time and money into the people caring for the most vulnerable among us, so no other family has to experience a loss like his.

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Several lawsuits are currently pending against nursing homes in the state for inadequate care that resulted in patient mistreatment or death.

Jessica Moore