WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The labor shortage affecting the country is causing headaches for local nursing homes.
Contact 5 has learned that a local nursing home is facing penalties after state inspectors determined the facility did not have the minimum number of qualified staffers on duty as required by law.
Quettie Isoff remembers when she looked forward to going to work at Palm Garden of West Palm Beach nursing home.
"Because I love to take care of the old people," Isoff said.
For 25 years, she made the short drive from her house to Palm Garden of West Palm Beach nursing home. It is a job that helped put her daughters through college.
"That job's so hard now," Isoff said.
The local branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) just filed a complaint with Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, the agency that regulates nursing homes.
The union accused Palm Garden of "continuously assigning certified nursing assistants 31 patients each on a daily basis. This is causing a delay of care for the elderly residents."
"We have a drain of what we call qualified health care workers," said Jude Derisme, local vice president of SEIU.
He said the pandemic drove away qualified certified nursing assistants. Derisme said wages are as low as $10 and turnover is high.
"How many people are right at the edge, ready to quit their nursing jobs because of the stress?" asked Contact 5 reporter Dave Bohman.
"I think it's a huge majority," Derisme said.
All nursing homes are rated on the quality of care by the federal government by using between one and five stars.
Contact 5 looked at the ratings of all 78 nursing homes in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast that are posted online.
We found almost 30 percent received just one or two stars out of a possible five. That's a rating of "below average" based on inspection reports published last month.
Palm Garden of West Palm Beach had two stars for its overall rating. It received just one star for inspections.
Its most recent health inspection found 20 health violations -- more than three times the Florida average.
Twelve other area nursing homes also received just one star as a result of their health inspections.
"Workforce has been a challenge in our sector even before the COVID pandemic," said Florida Health Care Association spokeswoman Kristen Knapp.
The association is a trade group representing most nursing homes in Florida.
Her agency said Medicaid payments to nursing homes are too low and handcuff their ability to pay better and attract new talent.
"There's just not enough workers out there able to fill those vacant positions," Knapp said.
Palm Garden of West Palm Beach has not returned WPTV's calls seeking comment.
The federal ratings give it five stars for staffing, but that reflects a period of inspections that took place several months before the nurse's union alleged the facility had staffing problems.
"I'm concerned about my patients," Isoff said.
She said some of those she already cares for feel the effects of what the union calls staff shortages and rapid turnover.
"I take care of my patients. Sometimes I cannot get to them, and I say, "I'm sorry,'" Isoff said. "It hurts my feelings."
Contact 5 learned Palm Garden of West Palm Beach failed to meet the minimum staffing requirements of 32 days over a 40-day period.
The nursing home voluntarily agreed not to take in new patients until the state finds it has fixed its staffing issues.
Click here to check on the federal ratings of nursing homes in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.