Pennsylvania – On Thursday, March 19th, thousands of nursing home workers, members of SEIU Healthcare PA, participated in the largest statewide nursing day of action in their union’s history. Their goal is to raise public awareness about the challenges they face on the job and send a clear message to their employers- improve resident care and turn nursing home jobs into family sustaining-careers.
“I love what I do – taking care of seniors in the last years of their lives. But too often, we have to provide care with not enough staff or supplies,” said Darlene Techentin, a certified nursing aide from Northampton County. “This is not fair for residents or caregivers and causes a lot of turnover, which just makes the staffing situation worse.”
For months, nursing home workers have met with their legislators in their districts to share the reality of modern nursing home care in Pennsylvania – short staffing, inadequate supplies and wages low enough to require many workers to take on a second job and receive public assistance. And on Monday, March 18th, around 150 nursing home workers traveled to Harrisburg to urge support for new legislation that would address current gaps in reporting, staffing and spending requirements.
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.
“We went to Harrisburg to demand our legislators hold the nursing home industry more accountable and now we are sharing that same message in our communities” said Iris Powell, a certified nursing aide from East Stroudsburg “The nursing home industry made half a billion dollars last year and it is time they reinvest more of it in residents and those who take care of them.”
Many of the nursing home workers involved in the statewide day of action are among almost 7,000 nursing home workers currently bargaining new union contracts in 2013 with large for-profit nursing home chains including Golden Living Center, Extendicare, Guardian, Global and Reliant. While the nursing home industry is very profitable, the vast majority of Pennsylvania nursing home workers struggle to make ends meet.
“Our seniors have taken care of us their entire lives and we owe them the chance to live out their remaining years in dignity.” said Heidi Bingle, a licensed practical nurse from Silver Oaks Nursing Center in New Castle ” We all need to work together to help nursing home workers have what they need to give our elderly the best care.”
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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.