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Frontline Caregivers’ Demands Are Heard But There Is Still Work To Do

Healthcare workers celebrate investment in nursing home staffing, but  PA budget falls short of addressing PA’s health crisis

Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, issued the following statement regarding the proposed Pennsylvania state budget:

“After an unprecedented 18 months of a pandemic which took the lives of over 27,000 Pennsylvanians and devastated our healthcare workforce, PA legislators have reached a budget agreement that listens to caregivers and begins to address the long work ahead to rebuild and reform our healthcare system.

Most significantly,  $247 million of the American Rescue Plan funds will be spent for nursing home staffing and bedside care — an essential investment needed to move us from crisis to reform. 

Facing a 128% staff turnover rate and jobs that have been named as the most dangerous in the country, nursing home caregivers have refused to be silent, demanding those they elected to take action. Their unrelenting advocacy could not be ignored, and this investment to increase staffing to save lives and lift essential workers out of poverty is a victory for nursing home residents, their families, and a workforce who has shouldered an impossible burden. Now we move to essential reform of the nursing home industry that’s needed to ensure transparency and accountability so that taxpayers know their public dollars are going to bedside care.

Unfortunately with this budget agreement, our legislature refused to take action to address our broader public health crisis and staffing issues. Pennsylvania still ranks an embarrassing 44th in the amount spent per person for public health in the nation. Nurses and other frontline caregivers in our hospitals, Department of Health, and other state agencies have made clear that we must invest in our healthcare workforce and keep caregivers at the bedside to confront our staffing crisis and protect our communities.

The legislature’s decision to sock away billions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan — money meant for COVID relief — points to their failure to recognize the immediacy of the crisis and how much our healthcare system, frontline workers, and communities have suffered. This fall, we will continue our fight for the investment and relief healthcare workers and those they care for need and deserve.

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