The Gainesville Sun had the below editorial:

Right now, a nursing home patient in Florida is hungry, another soaks in soiled clothes, or still another has fallen out of bed. Others wait too long for their medications, and many face tragic life and death consequences, all due to understaffing in the state’s nursing facilities.

When it comes to providing proper care in nursing homes, every minute counts. Yet, state Rep. Rick Roth, R-Palm Beach Gardens, has introduced a bill (HB897) that would further worsen conditions for our seniors and their caregivers.

This dangerous legislation is strongly opposed by nursing home workers and other true senior citizen advocates such as AARP and LeadingAge Florida, while unsurprisingly supported by profit-minded lobbyists who want to deregulate the industry.

The bill claims to increase the amount of required “direct care hours” a nursing home resident must receive from an average of 3.6 to 3.9 hours per day, but it creates gaping loopholes likely to result in dangerous reductions in time and care. HB 897 will be a Trojan Horse boosting facility profits, that will hurt, not help nursing home patients and workers.

Under current law, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) handle the vast majority of essential daily living needs — including eating, dressing and hygiene – for nursing home residents. But Roth’s proposal removes the CNA requirement and would allow untrained non-certified employees to conduct these critically important tasks.

The bill also could permit facilities to categorize services performed by therapists, counselors and others as part of minimum time requirements in place of indispensable CNA care. Our seniors can’t afford these cuts, and nor can caregivers in a long-term care (LTC) system that already has great problems and inequalities.

Florida nursing homes make up a $20 billion private, for-profit industry, funded with hundreds of millions of public tax dollars. For 20 years, the state legislature has weakened regulations and/or sided with nursing home operators who make large political donations. These companies don’t need more help to rack up huge profits at the expense of patients and caregivers.

My fellow members of 1199SEIU and other dedicated healthcare workers carry out extremely important and challenging jobs: caring for fragile patients often with serious medical issues. Families depend on us to deliver care and compassion to their loved ones in their most delicate years of life.

We’re committed to provide the very best to our patients, yet most workers are paid low wages with minimal benefits. The average CNA wage in Florida is $11 per hour; meaning some CNAs can’t afford their own health coverage. So many of my co-workers face this same sad irony while we deliver care to others. We struggle to support our families week-to-week, and if we get sick, it’s a real crisis.

When it comes to serving seniors, LTC workers consider ourselves the true “guardians of quality.” We strongly urge Rep. Roth to reconsider and/or repair his current bill. He should partner with workers, families and other genuine stakeholders to make our nursing home system safe, fair and better for seniors and caregivers alike.

DUKINS DELINOIS, WEST PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Delinois is a nursing home worker in West Palm Beach, and a member of 1199SEIU Florida, the union representing more than 25,000 healthcare workers throughout the state.

 

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