Home care agencies and patients across Texas in need of COVID-19 relief funds

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:05 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Significant COVID-19 costs and workforce shortages are negatively impacting hospital capacity and patients who rely on home care services.

Recently, Texas Association for Home Care and Hospice, alongside home care agencies, patients and families, called upon Texas Legislature to allocate $412 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds in an effort to help meet the needs of its patients.

The state had $16 billion in federal COVID-19 aid from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

SB 8 passed and allotted $178 Million in grants for staffing to home health, assisted living facilities, and providers who serve individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Although providers are grateful for any funding they received, they say legislature must do more to address the long term underfunding that has been worsened by the pandemic.

The shortage is forcing patients to be sent to hospitals, which creates a bottleneck effect in available hospital beds.

“You’ve got children who are stuck in the hospital, you’ve got adults and elderly who are stuck in the hospital that are ready to go home, they need to go home, but they have to go home with home health care and because there’s no staffing on the home care side, they stay in the hospital, they take up those beds and it really is creating you know that bottleneck issue where we’re seeing hospitals are overcrowded, well its because those a lot of those folks can’t go home,” said Kristen Robison, president, Texas Association for Homecare and Hospice.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the association has seen other providers such as, hospitals and nursing facilities receive government support, however home care has not.

“So, what that has done for home care since we’ve pretty much been we’ve been left out completely from any COVID relief to date and so what that’s done is it’s created a really uneven playing field when we’re trying to obtain nurses and attendant care for the clients that we serve,” said Robison.

She says there is a growing gap in the amount of hours medically necessary and authorized for children and what they are actually able to staff.

“Pre-COVID, we were probably looking at 90 to 95 percent coverage, you know being able to put nurses on cases now we’re probably sitting between 50 to 60 percent and so it’s been a huge decrease in our staffing capable capabilities,” said Robison.

5-year-old, Lanndrie Day from Lubbock who has Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, which was the result of her mother, Sandi Anderson’s uterus rupturing where Lanndrie did not have a heart beat for 16 minutes.

Due to this, Lanndrie has Cerebral Palsy, where she cannot swallow at all causing chronic respiratory failure, she has to have home health care to stay alive.

Her mother says they have not received the staffing they are suppose to.

“Right now, I currently only get 60 to 70 hours a week, which basically covers the main daytime necessities, I have one main nurse, which is the only nurse in the home. We’re supposed to get the full 170 hours a week, but we don’t,” said Sandi Anderson, Lanndrie’s mother.

Robison says the situation is actually getting worse as hospitals have had an influx of COVID-19 relief funds.

“I feel like there’s definitely a new baseline that has been created from the hospitals being able to raise those wages and offer huge sign on bonuses $10,000 to $20,000 sign on bonuses and we again, we haven’t received any funding to support our staffing, so we’re just not able to keep up with that,” said Robison.

One thing Robison mentions is the misconception around home care, she says she has heard people call it a “luxury”, however these children with complex medical needs has to have these services in order to stay alive.

The care is so complex and expensive that they typically meet their insurance maximums each year within the first few months of the year.

Anderson says parents have to make the decision either give up their career and stay home and provide that medical care or you go to work to be able to pay bills.

For Anderson’s family, she has to go to work in order to provide for her family and pay bills, so she relies on using home care.

If she did not have access to home care, Lanndrie would not stay alive.

“They told me I would never bring my daughter home and I did and I almost lost her 23 times in the first year because I’m not a nurse and I’m not a doctor and I didn’t have help at home and she kept getting sick and it was the common cold almost every single time that almost killed her, it’s not easy for us, it’s not easy to be strong, we’re not strong because we choose to be, we are strong because we have to be and we would love a break, we would love some help, we would love the world to see the beauty of our kids and how hard they fight, how they’ve earned their places on this earth, and the least we can get back is a little bit of help,” said Anderson.

Robison says as taxpayers, we should understand that these kids need these services.

“Reach out to our legislators as constituents and let them know that these kids need this funding, so that they can continue to receive care at home in the most comfortable setting and stay out of hospitals, kids don’t belong in nursing homes and to be surrounded by their families,” said Robison.

Anderson says her daughter and thousands of kids in Texas deserve medical grade assistance.

“Texas is such a prideful state, so many I mean if you’re from Texas you’re proud of it, you display it and talk about it you brag about it, our senate, our representatives you have failed Texas, you have completely failed the medical community in Texas,” said Anderson.

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