Sen. Durazo and Health Workers Announce Legislation to Fix Patient Care Crisis, Healthcare Worker Shortage

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Mike Roth, 916.444.7170, Maria Elena Jauregui, 818.355.5291, Spanish-language
February 15, 2023
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SB 525 to raise wages for lowest paid healthcare workers to $25/hr at hospitals, nursing homes, community clinics, and other medical facilities to recruit and retain healthcare workers

CALIFORNIA– Today, healthcare workers – from maintenance workers, security officers, medical assistants, nursing home caregivers, to resident physicians – joined Senator Maria Elena Durazo to introduce SB 525 to address a patient care crisis caused by pervasive healthcare workforce shortage. SB 525 creates a first in the nation statewide healthcare worker minimum wage of $25/hr to retain and attract new workers in the healthcare field.

“Women and workers of color who are the backbone of our healthcare system have been underpaid and devalued for decades,” said Sen. María Elena Durazo, author of SB 525. “They’ve risked their lives and health and are working multiple shifts only to take home poverty wages in understaffed facilities. We need to ensure that healthcare workers are paid livable wages so that everyone can have access to timely quality care.”

“Because we can’t afford to continue to do work that we love to do, more and more of us are leaving caregiving jobs,” said Emora Hinton, a certified nursing assistant/restorative nurse assistant at Capital Transitional Care. “We never have enough caregivers to deliver the care that our patients need and deserve. Too often that means missed meals and unchanged bedsheets for our elderly and disabled patients, and caregivers getting hurt from doing the work meant to be done by two to three people.” A poll of nursing home workers found that 1 in 2 nursing home workers are thinking about leaving their jobs.

SB 525 will raise wages for the lowest paid healthcare workers including those who provide services in nursing, caregiving, housekeeping, security, clerical, food services, laundry, and other patient-care related services. People of color and women make up a majority of the low-wage healthcare workforce. According to California EDD, 76.5% of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides are people of color and 79.9% are women, and 70.1% of other healthcare support occupations are people of color and 84.1% are women.

Healthcare workers are leaving at alarming rates due to the compounding effects of low wages, burnout, and exhaustion, causing longer wait times for patients and impacting the quality of patient care. Meanwhile, the state’s largest healthcare systems are making record profits. During the pandemic, California hospitals made over $20 billion in profit.

“Even before the pandemic, our hospital did not have enough staff. We are forced to deal with intense workloads, making it difficult to give our patients the time and attention they deserve,” said Jimmie Morris, a healthcare worker in Sacramento. “Many of my co-workers are struggling to make ends meet and are leaving for jobs that offer higher pay with fewer health risks. A $25 minimum wage would keep healthcare workers in their jobs, help recruit new ones to our healthcare system, and improve the quality of patient care.”

According to a 2022 survey of healthcare workers, 83% say their department is understaffed.

Low wages and resulting turnover and staff shortages have rippling effects throughout the healthcare system, including mental health services provided by community clinics that serve low-income communities. 

“We have had a lot of turnover of clinic staff, especially administrative workers. That really slows things down in terms of getting our patients through,” said Steve Valenciano, a mental health therapist at a community clinic in Los Angeles, “Right now my patients are having to wait three to four months for services, and these are kids who need urgent help so that’s really tough.”

“This bill is monumental. It would not only raise minimum wage for healthcare workers to $25 an hour, it would redefine a living wage for us as residents. We often work 80 hours a week, but, at our current salaries that evens out to less than minimum wage,” said  Dr. Kelley Butler, Family Medicine Resident Physician at UCSF Medical Center. “That means we can’t afford rent in the cities we train in, childcare while we care for others, and we’re often one emergency away from financial crisis. This bill is about taking care of providers, so we can focus on taking care of patients.”

Five California cities have passed a living wage for workers in the past year. In November, voters passed Inglewood’s Yes on Measure HC that ensured all private-sector healthcare workers receive a $25 an hour wage. Wage increases have passed in Inglewood, Los Angeles, Downey, Long Beach, and Lynwood.