With Nursing Homes in Crisis & Devastation of COVID-19 Continuing, Workers Propose to Transform Oversight of Industry

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Terry Carter, 213 uies
March 28, 2022
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Sen. Stern, Asm. Santiago to Champion Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Standards Board to address the industry’s “Great Resignation” crisis and dangerously low staffing levels to ensure quality care

March 28, 2022, Sacramento, CA – At an event today at the State Capitol Building, SEIU Local 2015, the nation’s largest long-term care union and California’s largest labor union representing more than 400,000 nursing home workers and home care providers, proposed a statewide Quality Standards Board to oversee California’s troubled nursing home industry. The proposed Quality Standards Board, which was introduced in partnership with California State Senator Henry Stern and Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, would establish uniform standards for a nursing home industry that has experienced skyrocketing turnover rates for years, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the Quality Standards Board proposal was announced in Sacramento, hundreds of nursing home workers also protested at long-term care facilities across the state, demanding government intervention take place to stem the exodus of nursing home staff that is threatening the quality of care for California’s most vulnerable. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated a pre-existing crisis in California’s nursing home industry, with essential caregivers—mostly women, mostly women of color—leaving at alarming rates due to low wages and the dangerous workplace conditions laid bare over the last two years. At the same time, corporate nursing home lobbyists are in Sacramento asking for higher reimbursement rates to make even more money off the backs of our essential caregivers,” said April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015. “In order to truly transform the nursing home industry for the better, we need to implement changes that make jobs in the long-term care industry more attractive, safer, and sustainable. Our proposed Quality Standards Board provides an opportunity for the California legislature to actually listen to the feedback of our state’s frontline heroes and establish uniform standards that can ensure quality care and help stem the ‘Great Resignation’ sweeping the nursing home industry.”

The proposed Quality Standards Board would establish a number of industry-wide standards for California’s nursing homes and their essential caregivers, including:

  • Establishing an industry-wide minimum wage standard for all nursing home staff
  • Implementing safe staffing level requirements at nursing homes
  • Strengthening benefits for caregivers, including access to healthcare and paid sick leave
  • Enforcing certain training requirements for nursing home workers 

“Throughout the pandemic, essential SEIU Local 2015 members have been providing care to vulnerable Californians across the state,” said SEIU Local 2015 Executive Vice President Arnulfo De La Cruz. “A Quality Standards Board will give those on the front lines—who clearly see what’s needed to fix our nursing homes—an important seat at the table. We must create baseline, minimum standards in every single nursing home in California.”

The long-term care industry has lost hundreds of thousands of caregivers nationwide since the start of the pandemic, and recent polling from SEIU Local 2015 of caregivers across California shows that this trend is likely to continue. The survey found that half of nursing home workers are likely to leave their current position within the next year, with respondents citing low wages and staffing shortages as the primary reasons for their potential departure. In addition, according to California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, in 2020, there was a more than 50% turnover rate among nursing home staff in long-term care facilities across California, underscoring the challenges the industry is experiencing in retaining staff.

Furthermore, nursing homes were ground-zero for the COVID-19 virus, and at the beginning of the pandemic, dedicated nursing home workers were often forced to report to work without critical PPE. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 82,000 nursing home workers and SEIU Local 2015 members have contracted the virus, and tragically, 247 of those essential caregivers have passed away. At the rally at the State Capitol, a memorial service will also take place to commemorate the lives of those essential nursing home workers who passed away while serving on the frontline lines during this crisis. 

Protests are taking place across the state today to bring attention to the urgent need to invest in frontline caregivers, including a rally at the State Capitol in Sacramento where more than 100 caregivers and supporters will be on-hand to make their voices heard. In addition, related actions will also be taking place at 20 long-term care facilities across the state. Locations of note include Stoney Point Healthcare Center in Los Angeles, Baypoint Health Care Center in Hayward, Hearts and Hands Nursing Center in Santa Cruz, Delano Skilled Nursing Home in Kern County, and Extended Care Hospital in Riverside. At these locations, SEIU Local 2015 members are sharing their own personal struggles to provide care to residents with skeleton crews while simultaneously trying to provide for their own families on scant wages.

“The most impactful part of my job as a CNA at a nursing home is the treasured relationships I’ve developed with countless residents at the facility,” said SEIU Local 2015 First Vice President Christina Lockyear-White. “Unfortunately, nursing homes are now so understaffed that I rarely have time in my day to sit down and actually talk to our clients. Nursing home residents are our parents, loved ones, and friends, and they deserve access to quality care. Today, with my sisters and brothers at SEIU 2015, we are calling for real change in the nursing home industry to prioritize essential workers and vulnerable Californians instead of profits.”

The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIRC) allows for the creation of wage boards.

Participating SEIU members will be available on-site at all locations for interviews and can speak to today’s actions in addition to the breadth of work the Union is doing to combat this crisis and ensure better wages and benefits for their members, with the goal of dramatically reforming the industry for its long-term survival.