Representing thousands of Massachusetts nursing home workers, members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East penned a letter to state lawmakers recently, urging them to fight back on Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent veto, which will cut millions in nursing home staffer salaries and benefits.
Those cuts – some $17.2 million in all, according to the Boston Globe, are mostly going to affect low-wage workers. Originally, the state Legislature had approved $35.5 million for these workers. But then Baker, citing a substantial financial setback caused by major tax revenue declines, prompted him to cut the allocated boost in half.
The union argued that not only was the pay raise not reliant on state revenue (instead leaning on nursing home user fees), but this kind of move might ultimately jeopardize nursing home patient safety.
It wasn’t a threat so much as an understanding that when we pay workers less, the quality of work can be expected to be lower.
The industry as a whole already grapples with low staffing levels. The fewer certified nursing assistants and other staffers there are to provide basic needs, the higher the risk of nursing home neglect, medication errors and even abuse (due to negligent hiring, lack of training and lack of supervision).
As it now stands, union reps say, many of these workers struggle to survive on what amounts to little more than minimum wage. These are individuals who we trust to provide long-term care for the elderly in Massachusetts. Our Boston nursing home negligence lawyers know that if we want to ensure this vulnerable population receives quality care, we have to be willing to invest in it.
The union is teaming up with the Massachusetts Senior Care Association – which is actually an uncommon alliance – to press state legislatures to either override the governor’s action or find some other way to fund those wages.
Poor pay and understaffing are known to be key precursors to nursing home abuse and neglect. Management knows that labor is one of the most expensive elements of running an elder care center, so in order to cut back on those expenses, administrators will often demand unreasonable patient-to-staff ratios. But when pay is very low, the turnover rate is very high, and that can further exacerbate understaffing issues.
Another way nursing home companies (particularly those for-profit operations) try to circumvent hiring new workers and incurring those extra costs is by requiring employees to work a lot of overtime. While workers are paid for this time, the care given at hour 3 is just not going to be the same as the care given at hour 13. And while many staffers view overtime as a benefit, far too many feel compelled to work a substantial – and often unreasonable – number of hours to try to meet patient needs, when the reality is, the company simply needs to hire more people.
When patients depend on these staffers for their basic needs – including food, bathing, medication and grooming – any lapse can have significant consequences to patient health and well-being. Some of the effects of poor staffer pay and understaffing are:
An increased likelihood of medication errors;
- Nutritional oversights;
- Heightened risk of infections/ sores;
- Higher chance of a fall.
If your loved ones has been injured in a Boston nursing home, we can help.
Call the personal injury Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
Nursing home workers condemn Baker budget cuts, July 14, 2016, By Kay Lazar, The Boston Globe
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