1199SEIU Caregivers Host Federal Health Officials To Discuss New Standards, Solutions For Florida’s Critical Nursing Home Staffing, Care CrisisMarch 21, 2023
MIAMI – Caregivers and leaders with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East met with officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (HHS/CMS) on March 16 to discuss solutions to the dangerous staffing, retention and care crisis in Florida’s nursing homes.
Members of 1199SEIU, the largest union of healthcare workers in the state, described how an ongoing and worsening staffing crisis, as well as lowered state direct care standards, have put Florida’s most elderly and vulnerable patients, as well as their caregivers, at greater risk.
Staffing and retention in Florida nursing homes has been a long-term problem due to difficult and sometimes dangerous working conditions, as well as very low pay for caregivers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit nursing homes especially hard, these problems have grown more severe. Yet, the nursing home industry makes billions of dollars in profit each year, largely coming from taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
“Patients are having to wait longer to be fed, cleaned, helped to the bathroom, or even worse if they fall or suffer another emergency,” said Amy Runkle, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in Florida for more than 30 years. “Short-staffed facilities and lowered direct care standards make for a very dangerous combination. Patients, their families and my fellow caregivers all deserve better.”
While direct care standards have been steadily reduced in Florida over the past 20 years, with significant reductions passed in Tallahassee the last two legislative sessions, federal standards to ensure high quality care are expected to be announced in the coming months.
Will Harris and Kristiana Yao, senior advisors with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, met with 1199SEIU caregivers to discuss President Biden’s initiative to improve the safety and quality of care at the nation’s nursing homes.
Caregivers and officials on the panel agreed that the cornerstone to quality care is maintaining proper trained staffing levels, as well as transparency and accountability at nursing facilities.
The roundtable was part of 1199SEIU’s Continuum of Care Committee series bringing together caregivers, health officials, community leaders and the public to discuss challenges and opportunities to deliver high quality care in the state’s nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
“It’s important that we all come together to find solutions to this critical issue,” said Coy Jones, 1199SEIU Florida Political Director. “We’re talking about the health and dignity of our parents, grandparents and other loved ones, and the safety of their frontline caregivers who deserve to be protected and paid fairly.”
About 1199SEIU: 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest healthcare union in the country representing more than 450,000 nurses and healthcare workers nationwide, including more than 35,000 in Florida hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities throughout the state.