Northampton County Council approves $10m for staff bonuses – The Morning Call
Northampton County Council voted Thursday night to provide $10 million in bonuses to Gracedale employees and new hires to help with retention as nursing homes continue to struggle with labor shortages.
County Executive Lamont McClure, in what he called a plan to save Gracedale, the county’s retirement home, has sought council approval to provide the bonuses, which will be paid in the form of pay raises $2,500 annual for up to four years.
The money will come from the $30.3 million the county received as part of federal COVID-19 relief funding. In total, the board approved $14 million for Gracedale, which has struggled since the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020 to maintain staff and operations.
McClure had offered salary incentives that could amount to $10,000 for up to four years, for new hires and existing staff in increments of $5 million each.
The council also approved a plan to spend $2 million on a daycare center in Gracedale, which McClure pushed for months. He said the addition of child care services at the Upper Nazaerth Nazareth Township facility would provide a financial incentive to recruit and retain nurses and support staff.
Representatives from Learning Locomotion, which owns other child care centers in the county, briefed the council on details of the child care operation. Council spent much of its three-hour meeting discussing funding, which was split into five resolutions requiring separate votes.
The board also approved spending $1 million for capital improvements, and the nine-member board agreed to provide $1 million to pay temporary or “agency” nurses. McClure had asked for $2.5 million, but some board members argued that by offering salary bonuses to his staff, Gracedale’s trustees could avoid having to hire outside nurses.
Gracedale faces what McClure called a “national emergency” in long-term care staffing. The Medicare and Medicaid-backed nursing home, Pennsylvania’s largest long-term care facility under one roof, has about 450 staff who care for 400 residents.
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Both numbers are down significantly; the capacity of the Upper Nazareth Township facility is 688 residents. But due to understaffing, Gracedale has limited admissions, despite a waiting list for new residents.
The county said Gracedale could not increase its census until it increased its workforce, and officials have been looking for ways to provide more care since the pandemic.
McClure dubbed the nursing home efforts “Saving Gracedale Again.” Over a decade ago, county officials attempted to sell the then financially troubled home. McClure, while on the council, was a prominent voice against the plan, and a referendum effort he endorsed stopped the plan in its tracks.
Gracedale’s operating revenue is about $90.6 million, according to the county’s 2022 budget, with more than 50%, or about $47 million, in personnel costs.
Morning Call reporter Anthony Salamone can be reached at [email protected]