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Demand an end to the lethal status quo in nursing homes

Since April, Rhode Island nursing homes have received over $50 million dollars in state and federal funding in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This is on top of the $242 million they made in profit from 2017-2018Raise the Bar on Resident Care held a press conference to call for immediate investment in nursing home safe staffing by passing the Nursing Home Staffing & Quality Care Act.

Rhode Island’s staffing crisis existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, with the state ranking 42nd in the nation for average total hours of care according to Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data.  Approximately 81% of all COVID-19 related deaths in Rhode Island have occured in long term care settings  – one of the highest rates in the country. Indeed data shows that Infection control violations are significantly more common in short-staffed facilities, with 66% of homes receiving only one-star ratings from CMS for staffing having infection control violations.

According to CMS data reported as of May 31st over 500 nursing home workers in RI contracted COVID, and over 200 more are presumed to have contracted it. There have also been four caretakers who died from COVID-19. “For months now legislators have called Nursing Home Caregivers heroes for reporting to work under some of the most dangerous conditions of our time; it’s past time for them to back up those words with action,” said Adanjesus Marin, Coordinator of Raise the Bar on Resident Care. “You know how you treat heroes? You give them the tools and compensation they need, not tell them to wait until it’s more convenient. We need the Assembly to immediately pass The Nursing Home Staffing & Quality Care Act because the status quo is lethal for residents and caretakers.”

“COVID-19 didn’t create a nursing home staffing crisis in Rhode Island; it merely exposed the weaknesses of a system that has been plagued for too long by short staffing, inadequate supplies and poverty wages,” said Senate Whip Maryellen Goodwin. “Returning to the status quo is not an option; we need to seize the moment and pass the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act to prepare for the long term needs of our expanding senior population.”

Participants renewed the urgency of passing The Nursing Home Staffing & Quality Care Act (Senate Bill 2519: Senator Maryellen Goodwin and House Bill 7624: Representative Scott Slater) to address the staffing crisis. This legislation will:

  • Establish a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, the federal recommendation for quality care
  • Secure funding to raise wages to recruit and retain a stable, qualified workforce
  • Invest in needed training and skills enhancement for caregivers to provide care for patients with increasing acuity and complex healthcare needs.
“Short staffing and poverty wages have long been an issue in nursing home care but the covid-19 pandemic only made it worse. Caregivers were forced to work multiple shifts which led to exhaustion and a greater likelihood to let proper infection control techniques fall through the cracks. The only way we are going to solve the staffing crisis is by paying caregivers a living wage which is why we need to pass The Nursing Home Staffing & Quality Care Act now,” said Jean Austin, Registered Nurse of 30 years at Greenville Center.

“For too long nursing home frontline heroes have been underpaid because they belong to a workforce overwhelmingly made up of women and People of Color. Rhode Island’s nursing home poverty wages are driving the ongoing staffing crisis hurting our most vulnerable residents,” said Representative Scott Slater. “Now is the time for the nursing home industry to invest in frontline caregivers to ensure a stable, qualified workforce for seniors and people with disabilities.”

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