In Northampton County, PA, the Gracedale Nursing Home has been suffering a rash of missing employees for the last month. Dubbed the Gracedale absenteeism by county officials, June numbers for employee call-outs to the facility approached one-third of the facility’s workforce.
County Executive Lamont McClure was rather direct in her statements to the council on July 3 when she told them that there was more than a little potential for abuse of the leave system if 33% of the workforce could call out of the county-owned nursing home at the same time.
The alleged Gracedale absenteeism has also not gone without consequence. In the same month as this string of missing employees, there were two separate, anonymous complaints filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Health stating that the facility appeared to be understaffed.
Despite the complaints, the county denies that their facility was genuinely understaffed, calling the claims “unsubstantiated” and reprimanding employees for discussing the Gracedale absenteeism issues in front of residents or their guests. As a solution to the Gracedale absenteeism, county officials are now requiring that any absence notice be accompanied by a doctor’s authorization before an employee may call-out, a practice that proved previously successful at prisons in the area.
Regardless of the solutions, if the Gracedale absenteeism continues many, including county council president Ron Heckman, have speculated that Gracedale will not be able to function for much longer. In addition to being an undue burden on the staff that do show up, the frequent absences at Gracedale present a risk to the residents living there.
With 688 beds across 365 acres, this facility cannot afford to lose a third of its staff without risking the potential health and safety of the residents staying there. If the Gracedale absenteeism does not cease in the near future, Gracedale Nursing Home may join Pennsylvania’s 20 other nursing homes on the Federal Government’s Special Focus Facilities list. Gracedale Nursing Home may be a county-run facility, but its shortcomings serve as a reminder that every potential nursing home must be examined thoroughly and consequences must be weighed before committing a loved one to a facility’s care.
For more information about nursing home neglect, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Neglect Page.