Roanoke woman says lack of qualified nurses through Medicaid is leaving her son without care

(Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - A Roanoke woman is afraid she may have to quit her job to take care of her son, after a state Medicaid program finds itself with a shortage of nurses who specialize in home healthcare.

In this case the patient is on a ventilator, and his mother is forced to stay at home to give the care he once received from one of those nurses.

Lottie Diomedi cares for her son Tim every day now, making sure he can breathe and helping him with every day tasks.

She says his Muscular Dystrophy didn't begin this way.

"He went sledding, he ran, he jumped, he climbed trees just like everybody else," said Lottie Diomedi.

As Tim got older, it was clear he would need help. and the family turned to nursing care through Medicaid's Tech Waiver program -- which helps people who need technology, like Tim's ventilator to survive.

"We got in I think just before Tim's 18th birthday, and back then there were a lot of different nursing companies, there wasn't a shortage of nurses," said Lottie Diomedi.

Now there aren't enough home nurses to go around.

There are only two nurse staffing companies serving the Roanoke community.

"They help me with eating and getting cleaned up, help getting dressed, washed, all that kind of stuff," said Tim Diomedi.

Just last week, that care he was receiving came to an abrupt halt.

"The current nurse I had, she quit she found another job, she just found a job that probably paid more or something," said Tim Diomedi.

Lottie says when she got in touch with both Roanoke nursing companies, she got the same answer: there aren't enough nurses because of tough new standards that require more training and experience.

A requirement new to the program in 20-15.

Before that, Lottie says they never had a problem with unskilled nurses.

"The respiratory therapist trained the nurses on the machine. I trained them on Tim's care," said Lottie Diomedi.

According to the Department of Health Professionals, Southwest Virginia and other rural areas are feeling the nursing pinch the most.

Lottie says until something is fixed, she'll have to continue taking time off work.

"How long this will go on, I have no idea, no idea. At some point, I will probably have to give up my job," said Lottie Diomedi.

According to the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, the Department is currently undergoing a rule change that would allow for six months of training for nurses to replace that practical experience requirement, making it easier to get qualified.

They do not have an exact timeline when that rule will go into affect.