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Union launches massive nursing home reform campaign after COVID fatalities

Assemblyman Ron Kim's push for nursing home reform now has the backing of the nation's largest healthcare union. (Photo courtesy of Kim's office)

While Assemblyman Ron Kim is making national headlines for taking on Governor Andrew Cuomo for his administration’s alleged mishandling of nursing home fatalities during the coronavirus pandemic, and after the state Attorney General’s office revealed that nursing homes with fewer staff had more COVID deaths, the nation’s largest healthcare union launched a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign to reform the industry.

The union supports legislation holding nursing home owners accountable to ensure quality care for the state’s most vulnerable patients and protections for the dedicated men and women who care for them.

“We cannot simply return to pre-pandemic conditions of sub-standard care and low-quality jobs,” 1199 SEIU Executive Vice President Milly Silva said. “True comprehensive reform is needed to ensure that residents receive the highest level of care, and that workers are able to remain safe and healthy as they tend to the residents they know and love. The state must ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars being spent to provide care are actually being spent on quality care and not siphoned off as excessive profits.”

More than 65,000 members of 1199SEIU work in 343 nursing homes across the state. New York is one of only 10 states that has no minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes ranking 45th in the nation in an important quality metric due to the high number of facilities that provide below average hours of care to residents. When nursing homes are understaffed, patients suffer resulting in pressure sores, falls and malnutrition.

“One day, I got to work early to grab something to eat before my shift started but there was an emergency on the ‘total care’ floor where residents cannot care for themselves,” said Linda Silva, a certified nursing assistant in a Rockaway Beach nursing home that is chronically understaffed. “I was running around to meet everyone’s needs but I started to feel faint and I fell flat on my face in front of some residents. Someone called 911. I suffered cuts and bruises, a fractured elbow, sprained wrist, and torn rotator cuff. I couldn’t work for two months.”

The union set up statewide picket lines to advocate for increased investment in resident care and staffing. The members are calling for state enforcement of minimum hours of daily care residents must receive, as well as measures to improve infection control and prevent owners with poor track records from buying new facilities.

Recent polling shows that New York voters across party lines believe it is essential or very important that Albany passes nursing home reforms such as Kim’s legislation.

“1199SEIU members have been battling COVID19 for a year, but the need for these reforms predates the pandemic,” Silva said. “Nursing home residents deserve the highest quality care, which requires true investment in the health and safety of the women and men who deliver this care. We are calling on nursing home owners to invest in these workers who treat residents like family, and we are calling on the state to stand with us to fight for what these workers deserve.”

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