Letter: Nursing homes facing a genuine crisis
The Minnesota House Democrat health and human services budget bill offers a measly $3.9 million in new funding to address this emergency.
To the Editor,
Recently, Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited the Oak Hills Living Center in New Ulm and told reporters that she wants to do something to help nursing homes in this state.
To that news, I have a simple response: thank you.
More than 1.3 million Minnesotans are aged 65 or older, and as they age, their need for care grows. Unfortunately, the State of Minnesota is not keeping up with these needs.
In the month of October, 11,000 people were turned away from nursing homes, mainly due to lack of staff. The inability to fully staff our nursing homes then creates unwanted stress on our hospitals, as nearly 20% of their bed space is being taken up by people who should be recovering in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. There are now 22,000 vacant caregiver positions in senior living.
Our nursing homes are facing a genuine crisis. Since 2016, 28 Minnesota nursing facilities have closed, most in greater Minnesota. Five nursing facilities have closed in the past year. Since the pandemic, 2,400 beds have closed. That number is equal to 48 nursing homes with a 50-bed capacity.
Yet in response, the Minnesota House Democrat health and human services budget bill offers a measly $3.9 million in new funding to address this emergency. You’ll recall Minnesota currently has a $17 billion budget surplus. For additional perspective, House Democrats are also proposing $194 million for a high-speed train to Duluth and $40 million for Hollywood producer tax credits.
These DFL priorities, and their proposed response for nursing homes, are unacceptable.
Caring for the elderly and the disabled is not a partisan issue. But Sen. Klobuchar, the reality is that your fellow Democrats — from Gov. Walz to legislative leadership — are not taking this crisis seriously. They’re not listening to the cries for help from legislative Republicans, nursing home administrators, overworked nursing home staff, or the elderly who are in desperate need of skilled care.
Maybe Senator, they’ll listen to you.
State Rep. Paul Torkelson, Hanska
Deputy Minority Leader, Minnesota House of Representatives