If you or a relative require round-the-clock medical care, chances are you will need a home healthcare nurse.

Unfortunately, a shortage of private duty home healthcare nurses is looming in the Garden State.

Marlana Follet, the division director for skilled nursing services at Bayada Home Health Care, said they are "having a difficult time attracting, recruiting and retaining qualified nurses for home care."

She said the problem is multi-faceted but the biggest issue is that “we have a difficult time attracting nurses who would prefer to go to hospitals where they can make more in wages.”

She said the Medicaid reimbursement rates in New Jersey to home care agencies are $38 for a licensed practical nurse and $50 for a registered nurse.

“That might sound like a lot, but out of that there are salaries, there are benefits, you pay for the supplies you need in the home, and the training and supervision for nurses and all expenses to provide nursing in the home come out of that hourly rate," she explained.

“We haven’t seen an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rates for 10 years.”

She said home health care nurses usually have the same high-skill training as hospital nurses.

“The children that we take care of and the adults that we take care of are coming home with tracheostomies and ventilators and feeding tubes and IVs and brain shunts," she said.

Follet said to solve the home health care nursing shortage problem, salaries for these nurses need to be raised and more of an effort must be made to attract them to the field.

“Unfortunately, they’re not being exposed to home care as a career option in the nursing school setting,” she said. “They’re not hearing about the impacts they can have on the children and adults that we care for.”

Follet stressed that home healthcare nurses provide an invaluable service.

“We’re keeping patients safe at home,” she said, “we’re providing them dignity and care at home, which is usually where people would want to be with their families.”

Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, calls for raising the hourly Medicaid rate for home health care nurses by $10.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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