Gov. Doug Burgum has recommended a one percent funding increase for North Dakota's nursing homes and other long term care facilities.
But the North Dakota Long Term Care Association will be asking the 2019 Legislature for a three percent increase.
The association said while it appreciates Burgum's recommendation of a one percent increase in funding for nursing homes – after three years of no increases – it isn’t enough to retain and attract staff. Association president Shelly Peterson told reporters the 1 percent is a starting point.
"It's not enough to deliver the resident care we really believe we need to deliver," Peterson said. "More importantly, it's what every single resident deserves."
"Skilled nursing facilities must have the resources to provide salary and benefit increases for its employees," said Jill Foertsch, administrator of the St. Gerard’s Community of Care in Hankinson. "We need to recruit and retain the staff, so no care is being compromised."
And it's a statewide problem. Daniel Kelly of the McKenzie County Health Care System of Watford City says in western North Dakota, it's kind of a "double-whammy."
"We have limited funds available to fund our operations," Kelly said. "At the same time, there's immense competition for individuals."
Kelly said during the slowdown in the Oil Patch, it was easier to hire people. But he said with the oil economy recovering, hiring again has become very difficult. Kelly said oil companies are able to offer better salaries and better benefit packages.
"Beyond that, it's not as difficult as a job," Kelly said. "Don't get me wrong -- working in the oil industry is hard. But I will tell you, working as a front-line staff member in a nursing home is even harder."
Peterson said. about two-thirds of long term care facilities in North Dakota operate at a loss. She said her organization hopes to meet with all of the state lawmakers before the session begins in January.