Supporters of the Quality Nursing Home Jobs Initiative testify at the hearing
Living the COVID-19 pandemic in a retirement home, confined to his room without visits or organized activities, “was a nightmare,” Rose Marie Pardo recalled on Tuesday.
But Pardo described the four certified nursing assistants who care for her at the Hancock Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Quincy as her “dream team.”
Pardo told the Legislative Assembly’s Healthcare Finance Committee that she contracted COVID-19, spending two weeks in a dedicated unit, and said her roommate “died a terrible death” from the virus . She said CNAs “put their lives at risk” to treat their patients and “go through hell day in and day out.”
“These NACs provided care, comforted our fears, listened to our needs and they were there when no one else could be there,” she said. “I am grateful to my dream team every day, but especially now, after the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time to recognize the commitment and dedication of the essential CNAs who work in our nursing homes. “
Speaking alongside Hancock Park administrator Adam Ernst, Pardo was one of the few people to video testify in support of bills dubbed the Nursing Home Quality Jobs Initiative, which were tabled by Senator Julian Cyr and Representative John Lawn, Chairman of the Committee.
The bills (H 1287, S 759) would require MassHealth to “fund a living wage supplement each year for direct care staff in licensed nursing homes,” including CNAs and housekeeping staff, laundry, dietetics, factory and office operations. They would also create a supervisory and leadership training grant program for nursing facility workers, a “long-term care career ladder grant program” and a tuition reimbursement program for nursing home. CNA training.
Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Tom Golden have also introduced bills (S 742, H 1268) aimed at stabilizing nursing home finances. These bills, said Tara Gregorio, president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, seek to modernize the funding formula for state nursing facilities to better reflect the current cost of resident care, including investments. in the workforce.
“Today’s nursing homes urgently need to hire 6,000 nurses and nursing assistants,” said Gregorio. “Nursing facilities are simply unable to compete for applicants, primarily due to their inability to offer competitive salaries. As a result, 40% of direct care staff are working overtime and more than half of Commonwealth nursing facilities refuse or limit admissions due to what many have described as the worst staffing crisis in our history. “
Dr. Larissa Lucas of the North Shore Physicians Group, a geriatric team that provides care at multiple nursing homes, said nursing home staffing levels were “near a point of crisis” before the pandemic, ” and this crisis is now fully arrived ”.
“This is an issue that is directly linked to government funding for nursing home care,” she said.
Along with the nursing home bills, the committee is also reviewing legislation that addresses the process of setting rates for health and home care services, again with a view to recruiting and retaining staff. .
In written testimony, Mass Home Care Executive Director Lisa Gurgone said bills from Senator Patricia Jehlen and Representative Carmine Gentile (S 774, H 737) would establish a new two-year process for setting prices for services. home health care MassHealth.
She said direct care workers are paid close to the minimum wage and workforce issues have long existed in the service and long-term support industry.
“Our inability to keep pace with the real inflationary impacts of the home and community-based service system is slowly but steadily deteriorating our ability to deliver,” Gurgone wrote.
Jehlen said there was a direct care workforce shortage “across the continuum from home care to assisted living to nursing homes.” Meanwhile, she said, the demand for home care is increasing as people get older.
“There are all kinds of things we can do to get people to choose home care as their profession, and we should, but if home care pays less than Burger King and you have to travel between jobs with erratic schedules and unpredictable, we can’t really wait for people to enter this workforce, ”she said.