April 28, 2015
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY – Scores of 1199SEIU nursing home workers picketed outside nursing facilities throughout the New York City area on April 22, calling for safe staffing and a new contract. The 18,000 union members who hit the streets have been working without a labor agreement since the last one expired on September 30, 2014. Negotiations with the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association for a new contract have stalled, leaving many frustrated.
The caregivers' primary concern is adequate staffing and how it impacts the continuity of care for their residents. Increasingly, nursing home facilities are relying on temporary agency staffers to supplement the chronic understaffing of full-time workers. In the September 2014 report, “Families for Better Care,” a nationwide nursing home watchdog organization gave New York a failing grade, and ranked it amongst the worst states in nursing home care. The report highlighted the need for adequate staffing saying, "[This report card] reinforces what we discovered last year, and that's more staffing translates into better care for residents."
Adequate staffing levels are critical for the proper care of elderly residents living in these vital centers. Staffers must know the daily needs of clients, and observe when residents might be behaving sickly, signifying potentially serious medical issues or other problems. But inadequate staffing levels force workers to split their time between more residents, and undermine person-centered care.
"It takes time to build relationships with your residents and learn a care plan,” said Luis Arroyo, a housekeeper from Kings Harbor Care Center in the Bronx. “Care providers need enough time to plan quality care with clients.”
Older adults in New York City will soon outnumber school-aged children, a phenomenon known as the "graying of the city." The aging of the city, as well as the rest of the state, highlights the urgent need to address the working conditions at long-term care facilities. A stable workforce of caregivers is essential to provide compassionate care to our senior citizens.
"It seems like management forgets that these nursing homes are actually people's homes,” said Annie Bryant, a certified nurse assistant for nearly 50 years. “It's our job to try to make people as comfortable as we can. We need safe, adequate staffing in every department of the nursing home.”