Closure of Cripple Creek Care Center highlights a bigger problem statewide

CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. (KRDO) — Cripple Creek Nursing Home closed Wednesday due to a staffing shortage, but it’s not the only nursing home in the state that could face closure.

The Colorado Health Care Association said it is concerned that at least 20 nursing homes across the state will struggle to keep their doors open due to low occupancy.

Low occupancy usually means less money in the facility, which means less money to pay staff. Then the vicious circle begins as the lack of staff means they cannot hire new residents to increase their occupancy.

Right now, it would take 5,000 new nurses to bring Colorado back to its pre-pandemic staffing level.

“We have a legitimate staffing crisis in long-term care,” said Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association.

Farmer said a big part of the solution lies in more state funding. The money that would go towards scholarships for nurses in school and more nursing programs in general. He said there was also a need for more childcare help for working nurses.

Farmer pointed out that the only way to change the problem on a larger scale is through state legislation. He said the state needs to train more nurses and work in facilities so they have the capacity to accommodate new residents from the aging population. “It’s desperate right now but it’s only getting worse week by week.”

At Cripple Creek Care Center, they tried for years to aggressively recruit new employees, but couldn’t keep up with the demand. They blame factors like the pandemic and their rural location for the difficulty in hiring.