Laona — For month's The Bay at Nu Roc, along with other long term care facilities, have fought off COVID-19 infections. However, residents and staff members say handling a pandemic is the least of their worries.

Pictures released on Facebook by a former employee recently show a lack of cleaning in the kitchen. Other former staff who recently resigned or were let go say they witnessed residents with call lights on for hours.

In a previous investigation by Newswatch 12, similar concerns were addressed, now more employees are speaking up.

"It was all good at first and then it was just horrifying," former employee, Mckayla Tessmer, said. She added that she was let go after trying to address facility issues with administration.

"To be honest when I first started working, I bought up a lot of those concerns," Tessmer said. "They completely just blew me off, they walked away, they just didn't want to listen to what I had to say."

Multiple families of resident's reached out to Newswatch 12 with some of the same concerns, but were fearful of backlash from the community if interviewed.

However, many of them said they didn't realize the issues at Nu Roc until the pandemic hit, including the daughter of Nu Roc Resident, Tara.

"There were times when I would be sitting in a room and she would call for someone and they wouldn't come," Tara said. "I would have to go out in the hallway and kind of flake someone down."

Tara began to notice changes in her mother's appearance, being her concerns.

"My mom was saying things to me in facetime calls that she hadn't had a shower in three weeks;and she looked like it," Tara said. "And that they wouldn't come--she would sit in her room and have accidents because they wouldn't come take her to the bathroom."

Champion Care spokesperson, John Vander Meer, who helps oversee the Bay at the Nu Roc says they, just like other facilities during the pandemic, are doing all they can to meet the needs of residents.

In a statement released to Newswatch 12, Champion Care stated "The Bay at Nu Roc" takes all complaints from residents, resident's families, and facility staff seriously" and that they are not alone in the challenges Wisconsin nursing homes are facing.

They are certainly not alone.

Across the state of Wisconsin there are currently 874 total investigations conducted on long-term care facilities. More than 300 active investigations. Seven of those include Wisconsin nursing homes owned by Champion Care and five owned by Rennes Group which includes their Northwoods location in Rhinelander.

In a phone call with Vikki Baumler, Digital Media Manager, for Rennes Group she says they're always looking for qualified workers even prior to the pandemic, but it isn't always easy.

A report released by long-term care provider associations shows just how deep the statewide workforce crisis is, with more than 20,000 vacant caregiver positions in long-term and residential care facilities.

The report added 70 percent of facilities say those who apply are not qualified applicants for caregiver openings.

But it doesn't fall just on corporate facilities like Champion Care, but Medicaid services.

According to officials Wisconsin has one of the worst Medicaid reimbursements systems for nursing homes in the country.

"Facilities not just in Northern WI but across the state they have lower operating budgets and because of the way they're boxed in by medicaid, they just have a lower ability to offer competitive wages to potential caregivers," Jim Stoa, Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Director for the Wisconsin Health Care Association, said.

It's a battle that has been fought over for years to help address the work care shortage. But while some progress has been made, it is not enough.

"The average nursing home in Wisconsin, if you look to see what they have to pay each day to provide care to a medicaid resident, they are not receiving reimbursement for the cost of that care," Stoa said. "So the facilities when it comes to providing that care for residents needs and deserve the facility is not recouping the cost of care."