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Nursing Home Workers Meet With Sen. Casey to Discuss Fixing Troubled Industry

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Caregivers from recent troubled nursing home report have open dialog with Senator about improvements.

HARRISBURG, PA — Just days after Senators Casey and Toomey made public a list of troubled nursing homes in Pennsylvania and nationally Senator Casey sat down with a dozen caregivers from some of those facilities to speak openly about the challenges and how to improve care.

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania applauds the Senators’ bipartisan work to shed light on those nursing homes that persistently fall short and provide greater transparency to individuals and families facing the life-altering decision to choose a nursing home.

“We’ve known for years that the nursing home industry has struggled because we live this every single day,” said Elizabeth Empson, who has worked in nursing home care for 25 years. “We love our residents and want to give them the best care possible and, through our union, we advocate for them and for better standards. We are thankful that Senator Casey suggested we meet to discuss ways to ensure nursing home employees are supported because as the people who do this work, we must be part of the discussion on how to fix it.”

Casey Web 2In the private meeting, the workers shared what a typical day is like, in which two Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are often responsible for the care of 40 residents.

“Flat funding, low wages, short staffing, and high staff turnover have created a spiral of declining quality,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, who was also at Friday’s meeting and started his own career as a nursing home CNA. “It is imperative that Pennsylvania invests in bedside care. We need more caregivers, and to do that, we’re going to have to make sure nursing home jobs are good jobs that attract and retain people to this work.”

Current state regulations require just 2.7 hours of direct care per day, per resident, which does not allow enough time to provide quality care. The caregivers at Friday’s meeting agree with the recommendations of experts and the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which recommends 4.1 hours of direct care per day per resident.

To meet the demand for improved staffing, the Commonwealth will have to increase funding for nursing home care, and couple it with policies and oversight that make sure it reaches direct care providers, which is why the Long Term Care Council recommends that increased funding must be regulated to ensure it goes to bedside care, where residents need it.

“Workers will not come to nursing homes and stay when they see what it’s like every day,” said Yetta Timothy, who has been a nursing home CNA for 19 years. “I’d much rather talk about why I love taking care of seniors, but I am glad Senator Casey met with us so we can work together.”

“We must work together – workers, management, facility owners, and elected leaders,” agreed Yarnell. “If we don’t, we continue to fail our seniors and people with disabilities.”

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