TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Officials with long-term care facilities in Kansas said they were struggling to hire workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Linda MowBray, president of the Kansas Health Care Association, works with several long-term care facilities across the state. In an interview on Monday, she told the Kansas Capitol Bureau that while nursing homes were finding it increasingly difficult to find workers, the situation worsened as the pandemic began.

“It’s hard work, it’s rewarding work, but it’s difficult to ask someone to take care of another person and it’s hard to make a living wage.”

MowBray said nursing homes are competing with other healthcare facilities such as hospitals or doctor’s offices to fill positions for Registered Nurses, Licensed General Practitioners (LPN) and Certified Nursing Aides (CNA) and medication assistants.

This has resulted in longer hours for workers in some long-term care facilities who juggle multiple positions in their work to care for residents.

“If I have to, I’ll work the floor,” said Winona Kegin, LPN and nursing home operator at Oak Creek Senior Living. “Our activity manager has been trained in an interdisciplinary manner in the kitchen. Our housekeeper is a CNA, so she’s helping on the floor too, so I try to have people who do cross-training. “

Kegin has been with Oak Creek Senior Living for 8 years and has close ties with residents and staff. However, she said the pandemic made it harder to keep people alive as they are becoming more reluctant to return to work.

“I have some very dedicated employees who work 12-14 hours a day, 5 days in a row, but it’s been challenging and it’s getting stressful,” she said.

This is because some companies in the state have pointed out a labor shortage and attributed the problem to increased unemployment benefits.

The latest US labor market report shows a slight increase in new hires. The unemployment rate fell to 5.8% to 6.1%, which for some shows gradual progress.

MowBray said the increased unemployment benefits did not go a long way towards adding more workers, especially for single parents who had to stay home to look after their children.

“It is not the ultimate decision for people not to return to work, but it does soften the blow to those who choose not to or cannot do it at this point,” she said.

MowBray said it would take a “multi-faceted” approach to attract more people to work in long-term care facilities, stressing that some nursing homes have expressed a need for recruitment agencies to fill specific positions.

“These workers are amazing and they do so much for our seniors and we just don’t recognize them for the heroes they are,” she said. “We need financial incentives. We need advertising incentives. We have to offer advantages to individuals, and we have to be creative in order to attract people. “

The state is making efforts to get more people back into work and is creating a reemployment plan to connect unemployed Kansans with local employers.