If there was ever a time to pull out the stops to tackle home care’s staffing shortage, it would be now. Company losses and reports of not being able to fill shifts as demand skyrockets makes this issue priority numero uno for the industry.

Apparently, the home care world thinks so, too. In a town hall meeting Wednesday, the leaders of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice’s Private Duty Home Care Advisory Council unveiled a new organization — the Home Care Workforce Action Alliance. Several home care organizations, including NAHC, will be involved in the alliance, which will be dedicated to understanding, strategizing and taking actions to increase the workforce. More details will emerge on May 18 when the alliance provides a more formal press announcement.

“We are all acutely aware of how hard it is to find and keep great people,” Kristin Wheeler, executive director of private duty at NAHC, said at the Wednesday meeting. “That is top of mind what we can look at, what we can advocate for.”

It is a much-needed move. You only need to see the latest earnings reports to grasp the depth and severity of the staffing crisis. LHC Group, Addus HomeCare, Encompass and Amedisys all posted losses in the first quarter. At least some of that was due to the cost of labor with staff being out sick due to COVID-19.

But as David Totaro, chief government affairs officer at Bayada, pointed out at the meeting Wednesday, the staffing problem is not new and does not appear to be improving even with low unemployment and signs that the country is emerging from the pandemic. His company is denying two out of three cases because of the shortage.

When you consider the momentum toward home from the pandemic and the demographics, there has never been a worse time to have a labor shortage. Home care has a golden opportunity to capitalize on positive perceptions from consumers and the government. But if the workers are not available, it doesn’t have a fighting chance to prove itself — much less deliver. 

Kudos to the home care field for stepping up on this issue — and uniting to try to harness as many resources as possible to solve the problem. I look forward to learning more.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].