The COVID-19 pandemic has put an enormous strain on healthcare workers. On Monday, the Senate held a hearing that examined some of the challenges facing nursing home and assisted living workers in particular.
Nursing and assisted living workers are currently paid at or near the hourly minimum wage, which is $ 12.50 per hour for Upstate New York and $ 15 per hour for New York City.
At the same time, fast food workers across the state earn a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.
Dora Fisher of the New York State Health Care Association explains that many of these health care workers simply cannot afford to stay in this profession.
And the turnover rate? It’s 94%.
“You can get a shelving job at Walmart for about the same pay as you would in a nursing home,” said Fisher. “And the work in the nursing home is incredibly exhausting. Even if people get excited about aging and older adults, it’s still pretty hard to swallow toilet visits, personal hygiene and all that kind of work when you can just work at Walmart. “
Recently passed nursing home reform laws require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to hire more workers in order to meet the new minimum staffing requirements by next year. But the institutions say that not only are there not enough people to hire, they also cannot afford to.
Operators of these facilities, who testified at the Senate hearing, said one of the main reasons they cannot raise the wages of these workers is the fact that the state has not increased its Medicaid reimbursement for these facilities in over 12 years.
Operators say they need to raise costs for residents who have a steady income in order to raise wages for workers.
Remember, for most facilities, this means you pass it on to the resident who has a steady income, said Lisa Newcomb, executive director of the Empire State Association of Assisted Living. “You know, something has to give way at some point.”
“The staffing problems and the Medicaid reimbursement problems are inextricably linked,” said Stephen Hanse, president of the New York State Health Facilities Association. “You can’t get a lot of workers without providing enough money to encourage workers to get into long-term care.”
Many institutions also expressed their frustration that they still have to submit extensive nursing home data to the health department by 1 p.m. every day
Regulations that were only applied in the event of severe disasters will now also be implemented after the state of emergency has been lifted.
Senator Sue Serino questioned Senator Rachel May, Chair of the Aging Committee and responsible for planning the testimony, why the Department of Health was not invited to the hearing.
Not only is the Department of Health the ultimate regulatory agency for nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state, but it also plays a critical role in channeling funding for various initiatives.
“Were you invited today?” Asked Serino.
“We decided this was really about hearing solutions from outside the department so we could report back to the department,” May said.
“Because they play such a big part in it, I’m a little surprised that they are not with us,” said Serino. “It’s a little disappointing, but thanks.”
During a hiatus from the hearing, Serino explained her comments inside, saying, “You should have been here because you are in charge, so you should hear and contribute to all of this. I just don’t understand why they’re not here. “
The hearing also addressed the challenges of home nursing, an issue that Spectrum News 1 will continue to cover on Wednesday.