ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Even before the pandemic, home health services were struggling to provide enough staff, and COVID-19 has only worsened the deficit. Because of that, one family from Greenwich is trying to leave the hospital with their 15-year-old who requires 24/7 at-home nursing care.
Whether pink in color or covered in sunflowers, Annabelle Gutasy loves to wear brightly colored bows.
“She’s always smiling, even when there’s nothing to smile about,” Brandi Gutasy said.
For Brandi, a smile has been hard to come by since Annabelle was diagnosed with Rhino Entovirus—an infection that causes cold-like symptoms—in June.
“It snowballed into much more than Rhino Enterovirus. That was actually just the tip of the iceberg,” Brandi said.
Anabelle’s airways became obstructed, and she needed a trachael replacement surgery. After the surgery, things became worse, and Annabelle became septic. She’s currently rehabilitating in a Westchester hospital.
“And quite honestly, we’ve been on this journey 133 days, and we just want to go home,” Brandi said.
However, the only way to get home is to find Annabelle the 24-hour nursing care her doctors have ordered. Brandi said with the current staffing shortage, that’s nearly impossible.
“We have yet to find one nurse to stay a 24-hour day one day a week, let alone seven days a week,” Brandi said.
Brandi has reached out to every provider in the Capital Region. She says Accu Care Home Health Service is doing what they can to get her a nurse in Greenwich.
“COVID? That has truly done a number on us. We cannot compete with the salaries,” JoAnn Curry, RN and Co-Owner of Accu Care, said.
Curry said nurses are choosing to travel to large facilities for top dollar incentives or they are unable to work because of the vaccine mandate. As for home health aids, many are leaving the industry altogether.
“You can flip a burger for $17 an hour. I don’t blame them, Curry said.
Curry estimated that Accu Care is down 50% of their home health aids since March, 2020.
“It’s very disheartening,” Curry said. “And that’s leaving the families up in turmoil.”
The Gutasy family will continue to search for an at-home nurse. Brandi said she dreams of Annabelle living a healthy and fulfilled life.
“We’re doing everything we can to not to be stuck in a facility,” Brandi said. “We want to go home.”