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New Report and Proposed Legislation Address Nursing Home Profitability at the Expense of Quality, Resident Care

Harrisburg, PA – PA nursing homes made $500 million in profit last year but a new report shows that nearly one in three failed to spend all of the state funding intended for residents on actual resident care. Meanwhile, the vast majority of  nursing home workers are unable to support their families because of poverty wages, according to the report recently released from the state’s largest nursing home workers union, “Pennsylvania’s Long Term Care System: Building Careers, Enhancing Quality Resident Care.”

Report findings include:

  • In 2011, the Pennsylvania nursing home industry generated an estimated $511 million in net income.
  • Despite high profits, the report found that one in three failed to spend all of the state funding intended for residents on actual resident care.
  • Most nursing home workers can’t support their families because of low wages with the average worker earning under 30,000 per year.
  • In a 2012 phone survey of Pennsylvania nursing home workers, 54% say their facility is sometimes adequately staffed and 27% say their facility is never adequately staffed.

The effects of inadequate staffing takes its toll on caregivers and residents alike. “On my assignment, I’m supposed to care for 9 or 10 residents. With that many residents, I usually have between 15 and 20 minutes to get them out of bed in the morning and move them to the dining room” said Yeta Okoth, a caregiver from Harrisburg. ”Unfortunately, often times I don’t even have those 15-20 minutes. On many days we are short staffed and I’m responsible for 14-15 residents. On those mornings when I walk into a room, I’d better have my towels, washcloth and soap ready.”

Over 7,000 nursing home workers are currently bargaining new union contracts and are using this opportunity to call for the state legislature to hold nursing homes more accountable to taxpayers, residents, and caregivers – and legislators are readying a package of legislation to do just that.

Senate Bill 624, sponsored by Senator Sean Wiley (D-Erie)  would require nursing homes to meet a minimum level of nurse aide staffing.  Senator Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington) is sponsoring Senate Bill 625 and 626 that would require nursing homes to report turnover and staffing levels to the Department of Health and require nursing homes spend a minimum amount of their Medicaid resident care per diem rate, respectively.

“Quality nursing home care is vital to the Commonwealth’s seniors and the industry is also a major employer throughout the state,” said Wiley. “As legislators, we have a responsibility to ensure that every facility meets minimum standards of care so we know that our seniors are receiving the best possible care.”

“We need to ensure that the Commonwealth’s healthcare dollars are spent as intended – to provide the best possible care for our elderly and to ensure that caregivers have the resources they need to do their job well,” said Smith. “We owe that to our seniors.”

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SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest growing union of health care workers, representing 25,000 nurses, technicians, nursing assistants, and support staff in hospitals, nursing homes and public institutions across the Commonwealth.

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is committed to improving the lives of health care workers and ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Pennsylvanians.

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