NURSING HOME WORKERS MUST HAVE A VOICE ON GOVERNOR’S TASK FORCE, LTC POLICIESAugust 10, 2020
By Roxey Nelson
Media Contact: Ed Gilhuly | 305-807-6906 | email@example.com
Nursing home caregivers have the biggest role and second biggest stake in long-term care policies (LTC) in Florida, (right behind the residents who live in our nursing homes), yet the governor’s new LTC Task Force excludes caregivers from participation on this critical committee.
These professional caregivers bathe, feed, dress and help patients with all their essential daily functions. They see, work and live the reality of every current and proposed LTC policy each day. Like the employees on the manufacturing lines of Ford and General Motors who know first-hand the changes needed to improve efficiency and safety, our nursing home caregivers know what is needed to protect those they care for each and every day. They are the true experts. Pre-Covid, these caregivers were like family members to their patients, and now even more so with visitation limitations.
Nursing home workers also are the ones taking the greatest risks of contracting this deadly virus, all for near-minimum wage. They know what’s needed to keep their patients and themselves safe. Nursing homes need to be treated as a Level 1 emergency. Workers need rapid testing, universal masking and screening, proper and adequate PPE, better wages so caregivers don't have to work two jobs, quarantine pay, hazard pay, and safe staffing levels and paid leave when they contract COVID as a result of their caregiving duties.
Excluding frontline caregivers and real experts in this task force makes no sense. We know Governor DeSantis and AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew care about our vulnerable seniors in LTC facilities but they must hear from the front line caregivers during this COVID pandemic if they truly wish to solve this problem. They need to understand the challenges and demands being placed on caregivers through this crisis and hear their recommendations, first-hand, in order to develop the most effective LTC policy, especially now that our LTC facilities may begin to again allow visitation.
Many of our nursing home caregivers have felt expendable, even today, after five months of the pandemic, adequate PPE is still not provided, and no one from our state government has sat down with the front line LTC workers to ask them what they need or what can be done to improve their safety and the safety of those they care for. Caregivers put their lives at risk every day they show up for work, because they care about the seniors under their care. Governor DeSantis has held dozens of press conferences and face-to-face meetings around the state with local politicians, hospital administrator, LTC facility executives, and others in Senior Leadership. We are asking the Governor, no, actually, we are pleading with him, to please take a moment to sit down and hear from those who are providing care directly in our LTC facilities before further policy changes are finalized. Our seniors, their caregivers and the health of the entire public need new, earnest efforts and informed leadership if we’re going to finally solve this crisis and save lives.
Roxey Nelson is a Vice President and Director of Politics & Strategic Campaigns for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the union that represents more than 25,000 nurses and healthcare workers throughout Florida.