NH Safety Concerns Drive Collaboration in Western NY

February 25, 2019

NYS Dept. of Health conducts inaugural training in Buffalo

NHSafety_fa.jpgOver the last several years, Western New York has seen a marked increase in the number of for-profit nursing homes owned by out-of-town operators.

As nursing home owners continue to transition non-profit facilities to for-profit entities, both 1199SEIU and state regulators are recording an upswing in short staffing-related incidents among workers and patients. Workers at understaffed nursing homes and rehabs are struggling to provide the highest quality care in what has been described as a “toxic cocktail” of understaffing, inadequate policy, and a higher-needs patient population.

The pattern and its effects on nursing home caregivers and residents was the focus of a recent investigation by The Buffalo News as well as a story in the September/ October 2018 1199 Magazine.

To combat this problem, ensure that residents receive high-quality care, and put irresponsible owners on notice, 1199SEIU Upstate invited Mark Hennessey, Director of the Center for Provider Services and Oversight at the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), to the Union’s Buffalo office to conduct a January 24 worker training on how the NYSDOH can assist in the fight against short staffing and its effects on quality care.

The 1199 Training and Upgrading Fund, which provides free courses to eligible 1199 members in a wide variety of topics including mental health, first aid, communication skills and workplace safety, was also at the event.

“As part of our Workforce Investment Organization initiative, our union is helping our 100,000 home health aides, nursing home workers and other long-term care members build the skills they need to be successful,” stressed Sandi Vito, Executive Director of 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds.

NHSafety_fa2.jpgDozens of 1199SEIU nursing home members attended the event. Union members learned how to best report to the DOH incidences of unsafe staffing, lack of supplies and proper lifting equipment. Members expressed enthusiasm about the training, which was the first of its kind in New York.

“We have to recognize that these facilities are people’s homes. When we talk about them we should take the ‘nursing’ off and just call them homes,” Tanya Goffe, an 1199SEIU delegate who works as a CNA at Safire Northtowns Nursing Home in Tonawanda, NY, just outside Buffalo.

Hennessey emphasized his office’s commitment to nursing home workers, training and the best ways to protect residents. Members were trained on what incidents to report, how to do it and what information must be included. The goal is to improve enforcement of care standards and support the caregivers who look after some of our most vulnerable and high-needs nursing home residents.

“We have to recognize that these facilities are people’s homes. When we talk about them we should take the ‘nursing’ off and just call them homes.”

–Tanya Goffe, 1199SEIU delegate, CNA at Safire Northtowns Nursing Home in Tonawanda, NY

“We want to make sure that our residents get the care they deserve,” added Goffe.

1199SEIU Long Term Care VP Todd Hobler highlighted the central role many workers play in their patients’ lives.

“Many of these residents do not have family members to advocate for them and ensure high quality care. The state authorities cannot monitor each institution round the clock,” explained Hobler.

“Members are on the front line of providing care to seniors that is largely funded by tax payers. They are very committed to this responsibility, but they must have adequate staffing and equipment to carry it out effectively.”

1199 Magazine | January - February 2019