Nationwide nursing shortage hits home for Richmond area families

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A nursing shortage, specifically of skilled home healthcare nurses is being felt nationwide and locally in Richmond.

One Richmond mother said the problem reaches far beyond the shortage alone.

April Niamtu was emotional in an interview with 8News about her experience. With tears in her eyes, she said so many families like hers in the area are struggling, not able to get at-home care for their loved ones.

Niamtu enjoys every day she can spend with her two sons, 19-year-old Evan and 21-year-old Joey. Her sons have cerebral palsy and seizure disorders, among other conditions.

In an older photo of the family given to 8News, Dr. Niamtu, his wife April and two of their sons, Evan and Joey enjoy a day on the water. (Photo: April Niamtu)

“You’re diapering all day long. I mean, there’s always something happening,” she said.

Niamtu said they need around-the-clock care from a skilled, home healthcare nurse. “It’s critical,” she pointed out.

Due to a shortage of nurses, it’s been a challenge for Niamtu to find one that’s available each day and night. She said the bigger issue behind it all is funding.

“It goes to the hospitals, it goes to the group homes, it goes to nursing homes, it goes to facilities. Anything but home health nursing,” Niamtu told 8News Tuesday.

They’re not the only Richmond area family dealing with it. Niamtu mentioned one family in particular taking care of a 45-year-old man with disabilities.

“The family has not had a night nurse in a year, and they are alternating nights sleeping next to him, so he doesn’t expire in the middle of the night,” she said with tears in her eyes.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 110,000 home care jobs were lost between February and December of last year alone.

“The home health nurses that we did have, some of them stayed because they didn’t want to work in the facilities, but the ones that were getting offered double, triple the pay, they went running,” she said.

For now, Niamtu, who spends hours taking care of her sons each day while her husband works, is taking it day by day.

Niamtu has sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam twice asking for more funding to be allocated to home health care nursing, but hasn’t gotten a response.

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