More than 50% of Florida long-term care facilities are being forced to limit admissions due to ongoing workforce shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Florida Health Care Association. 

The organization’s industry survey shed light on how staffing challenges are impacting daily operations for providers, with findings showing 88% of long-term care facilities believe their workforce situation has gotten worse since 2020 and are working to hire new staff.

“It’s a crisis. We’re not like your typical restaurant industry or like Chick-fil-A that can close their dining room if they want for a few hours and just operate the drive-thru,” FHCA spokeswoman Kristen Knapp said. “We’re caring for people. These are people’s lives.”

To keep workers, 58% percent of respondents said they’re paying increased, but unsustainable, rates. Another 39% said they’re paying sustainable increased rates. 

Eighty-seven percent are offering bonuses to staff who work overtime and double shifts. 

Within the last month, 74% of respondents reported needing to bring in a temporary staffing agency at least once to fill shifts, while 98% said they had to ask staff to work overtime or take extra shifts at least once. The survey was released Tuesday.

“Staff [members] are burnt out. They’re leaving the profession or just having to stay home with childcare issues, and now with [COVID-19] cases increasing, staff are sick or family members are sick,” Knapp told local media.

Regarding operations, 59% of facilities said they’re operating at a loss or negative total margin; 19% are operating on a total margin between 0% and 3%; and just 7% are operating with a total margin above 3%. 

Close to 80% of respondents ranked higher reimbursement as the top way to help them improve their ability to recruit and retain staff. 

“Now with hospitalizations ticking up and elective surgeries being put on pause that doesn’t help our occupancy which is one way we are able to recoup our costs,” Knapp said.

The added pressure of possible vaccine mandates also has operators concerned they could lose more staff, according to Kimberly Biegasiewicz, vice president of clinical services for the Avante Group, which operates more than a dozen long-term care facilities in the state. 

“There is a very real concern that mandating vaccines in the setting will force these staff to leave the profession, and now more than ever we need these hard working staff to provide quality care to our most vulnerable,” she recently told ABC News.