Lawmakers push for passage of bill that would change the status quo of RI’s nursing homes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Two Rhode Island lawmakers are backing legislation that would change the status quo of nursing homes in the state.

Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), in a virtual press conference Thursday, pushed for the passage of the “Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act” along with the group Raise the Bar on Resident Care. and other community allies and nursing home staff.

The legislation would establish a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, secure funding to raise wages, and invest in training and skills enhancement for caregivers.

“We were so short one day, we had three (CNA’s) and 44 patients,” said Victoria Mitchel, a CNA at Hopkins Manor in North Providence who spoke at the press conference. “We need to do something. We need to change things.”

Adanjesus Marin of Raise the Bar said Rhode Island is the only state in New England without minimum staffing and is one of 11 in the country, and said the state ranks 42 in the country in terms of how few staffing hours are received by residents in nursing homes.

“We can’t get the status quo stand,” Marin said to the rumors that the General Assembly is planning to end their current session soon.

The group pointed to data that 75% of COVID-related deaths in the state have been linked to nursing homes, and said short-staffed facilities have a harder time controlling the rate of infections.

“COVID-19 didn’t create a nursing home staffing crisis in Rhode Island; it merely exposed the weaknesses of a system that has been plagued for too long by short staffing, inadequate supplies and poverty wages,” said Senate Whip Maryellen Goodwin. “Returning to the status quo is not an option; we need to seize the moment and pass the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act to prepare for the long term needs of our expanding senior population.”

Staffing shortages at nursing homes aren’t just being noticed by employees and lawmakers, families are taking notice too.

“One of the things that he always comments on is how they’re always short-staffed.”

Betsy Olbrych’s father, Bob Dumas, lives at a facility in Westerly. They haven’t been hit by COVID-19, but they have been hit by a shortage of staff.

“Because my dad’s more mobile than some of the other residents, he’ll go and get his own meals, he’ll get his linens. He makes his own bed every single day.”

Olbrych can video chat her father, but only one day a week, due to the amount of staff.

“By appointment, only on Saturday, and all the slots are filled. So Sunday being Father’s Day, I’m not gonna be able to see him.”

The Rhode Island Department of Health is allowing nursing homes to have families drive-by this Father’s Day to visit, but a staff member is required to be present. At Dumas’s facility, they’ve already told families they can’t accommodate it.

“They can’t just have one patient per person, that’s just not an option and I understand that. We talk every day, it’s just to physically see each other is tough,” said Olbrych.

The Rhode Island Health Care Association spoke out Thursday morning, strongly against the bill. “There is no state in the nation that mandates 4.1 staffing hours, as proposed in these bills,” said President Scott Fraser. “What mandatory staffing really is, is an unfunded mandate making Rhode Island an outlier in the nursing home industry. If passed, these bills will decimate the homes our elderly rely on for care and result in jobs lost across the industry in RI.”

Senate Whip Maryellen Goodwin said the bill has overwhelming support by the senate and hopes it’s taken up by both the house and senate soon.

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island