FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 25, 2022
Contact: James Myers, 215-479-2213; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hundreds Rally for Safe Staffing, Accountability for Nursing Home Funding
Caregivers march through Harrisburg, calling on legislators to pass transformational reform in state budget
HARRISBURG, PA — On Wednesday, May 25th, as legislators were in session planning the state budget, over 200 nursing home workers sang and chanted in the halls of the capitol, rallied on the steps, and marched through Harrisburg planting hundreds of signs along front street, calling on the legislature to pass safe staffing and sustainable, accountable nursing home funding.
“We can only be in the room with someone for maybe five minutes before we have to run to the next person,” said Simone Whyte, an LPN from Harrisburg. “They need a listening ear, and we can’t even provide that. And the fewer staff a nursing home has, the more at risk residents are for falls, bedsores, and other complications. This has to change.”
The crisis has been building for years, brought about by years of understaffing, underfunding, and bad-actor nursing home owners. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how fragile the system is and now, with Pennsylvania’s senior population expected to reach 4 million by 2030, It’s essential we have safe, reliable, and quality options for all Pennsylvanians to receive long-term care in the setting of their choice.
“Taking care of someone 24/7 is a big job, and not every family is able to do that themselves,” said Karen Hipple, an LPN from Oil City who has been doing this work for 39 years. “If someone comes to a nursing home to live out their remaining years — whether that’s one year or 15 years. That time should be happy. But that’s hard to do when there’s no accountability for how nursing home funding is spent.”
Workers, Gov. Wolf’s administration, and the nursing home lobby all agree reform is needed, including:
- Safe Staffing Ratios for CNAs & LPNs.
- Full Funding: $300 million in permanent, recurring investment into care.
- Real Accountability for our tax dollars: 70 cents of every dollar that nursing homes spend must be spent on resident care
These changes are needed to rebuild the workforce and bring caregivers back to the bedside. Senior advocates stress that since nursing homes currently receive 70% of their funding from taxpayer dollars, accountability on funding is essential.
“Money was coming in but they weren’t paying the bills with it,” said Shelley Robinson, a CNA from Lancaster whose nursing home was previously owned by one of the worst examples of irresponsible nursing home ownership. “We ran out of food. Workers were using their own food stamps to run to the store and buy milk and cereal for our residents. We took turns buying snacks for our diabetic patients so their sugar would stay stable. Our paychecks bounced. We are here to take care of our residents, but who is taking care of us? We must have accountability.”
“Even when funds are supposed to be spent a certain way, they’re not,” said Hipple. “Last year COVID relief funds were meant to give raises to workers – some of them are making well under $15 an hour. But here we are a year later and they still haven’t gotten those raises.”
“Our frontline essential workers have been there for their residents through the worst conditions imaginable,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the largest healthcare union in the state and a former nursing home CNA. “Yet many are still making poverty wages and can’t afford their own health insurance. How we treat our most vulnerable and those who care for them says a lot about our society. And right now we’re failing the people of Pennsylvania. We need the legislature to stand with us because everyone deserves quality long-term care in whatever setting they choose.”
Once the budget is passed, over 3,000 SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania nursing home workers will begin negotiating new union contracts to raise wages and improve benefits and training opportunities to rebuild the workforce.
“We’re short on staff, short on food, short on supplies. You can’t get different results if you keep doing things the same way,” said Amanda Sanders, a caregiver from Uniontown. “We’re going to continue fighting and advocating until we get the change we need.”
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the state’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and healthcare workers, uniting tens of thousands of professional and technical employees, direct care workers, and service employees in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home- and community-based services, and state facilities across the Commonwealth. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania members are committed to improving the lives of health care workers and ensuring quality care and healthy communities for all Pennsylvanians.