FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 4, 2022
Now or Never: Over 2,000 Nursing Home Workers at 32 Locations Across PA Picket to Demand Better Staffing, Job Standards, and Accountability
With nursing homes on the brink of collapse and PA’s senior population booming, caregivers demand reform to protect residents
Statewide, PA: On Wednesday, May 4th, nearly 2,000 nursing home workers across Pennsylvania rallied outside their facilities to continue the demand for better staffing, job standards, and accountability.
The Covid-19 pandemic, irresponsible nursing home ownership and decades of regulatory neglect have left our nursing home system in a catastrophic crisis. 96% of nursing home workers in PA said they do not have the staffing necessary to provide the quality of resident care they would like. And it’s seniors, residents, and caregivers who are paying the price.
“For years, we’ve watched staffing decline and budgets cut,” said Karen Hipple, an LPN of 42 years from Oil City. “Other nurses and aides come up to me and say ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’ We’re burning out and that just perpetuates the short staffing and makes it even harder on our residents.”
“It’s gotten so bad we are buying cereal for our residents with our own money because they cut it from the nursing home budget,” said Shelley Robinson, a CNA in Lancaster. “Our residents deserve better.”
Pennsylvania cannot afford to wait. One in four Pennsylvanians is over 60 years of age, and that number is expected to reach 4 million – nearly one-third of the total population – by 2030. To make sure that all families have safe, reliable options for long term care it will take everyone – caregivers, the nursing home industry, management, senior care advocates and legislators – coming together to ensure:
Safe Staffing Standards: Nursing homes need enough caregivers to provide safe, quality care to residents. Currently some workers are caring for 20 or more people on a shift, which means residents aren’t getting the proper time and attention. Lower staffing also leads to increased risk of falls, bed sores, and other medical complications.
Better Job Standards: To achieve the staffing standards needed for quality care, nursing homes must be able to recruit, retain, and train caregivers. Before COVID, nursing homes were facing a 128% staff turnover rate, which has only gotten worse since the pandemic.
“How can our nursing homes hire the staff our residents need if workers can get paid more at the store down the street?” said Katrina Zazado, a CNA from Meadville, PA. “Our residents deserve more. We deserve more.”
“It’s unacceptable that we still don’t have reliable, affordable healthcare,” added Hipple. “We can’t even afford to go to the doctor. How do we take care of our residents if we can’t take care of ourselves?”
Accountability: 70% of nursing home funding comes from public dollars. But in the Commonwealth there is no accountability to make sure those funds go to bedside care and improve staffing.
“In the past, even when we’ve received extra funding, we don’t know where it went because no one can check,” said Tina Siegel, an LPN of over 40 years from Clarion. “Last time we got American Rescue Plan funds, very little went to the bedside. We did get new landscaping – Sure it’s good to make the outside of the building look nice, but what about our residents inside? Residents, their families, and taxpayers need to know that money is being spent where it’s needed.”
With a current state budget surplus and ARPA funds still available, Pennsylvania is in a position to make meaningful, significant movement toward solving the long term care crisis and reforming the nursing home industry.
“The nursing home regulations caregivers work under right now are the same as they were when I was a CNA 25 years ago,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the union representing thousands of nursing homes in the state. “They weren’t sufficient then and the situation is even more dire now. Caregivers are burning out, getting hurt, and leaving these jobs. They’ve had enough, and it’s time for the legislature to pass the sustainable, accountable funding our seniors and workers need.”
“I truly believe there are enough people who would go into this career if these jobs were good jobs where workers were respected and paid fairly,” added Tisheia Frazier, a CNA from Philadelphia. “We need accountable funding for nursing home care to make that happen. We need to build our workforce and invest in training to make sure our residents get the care they need.”
Workers plan to take their demands to Harrisburg later this month, with a rally set for May 25th on the capitol steps. For more information about caregivers’ advocacy, go to www.BetterNursingHomesNow.com