Thousands of nursing home workers launch simultaneous pickets at 50 homes in fight to improve quality of resident care

Workers picket outside Lake Shore Nursing Home.

CHICAGO (Oct. 10, 2012)–With signs reading “Residents and care givers must come first” and “Invest in care now,” 2,000 nursing home workers across Illinois launched simultaneous pickets at 50 nursing homes today calling on owners to invest more of their profits to raise the standards of resident care.

The workers cited a lack of adequate supplies, high rates of worker turnover and persistent short-staffing as factors that impact the quality of care they are able to deliver. Workers said the owners – all members of the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities (IAHCF) — should feel compelled to invest a portion of the cumulative $50.5 million in profits they made last year back into resident care and workforce stability.

“We’re understaffed, which means residents can’t get the quality of care and attention they need and excessive workloads exhaust the caregivers as they do their best to meet the needs of the residents,” said Lavern Harper, a licensed practical nurse at Rainbow Beach Nursing Home on the city’s south side as she marched with dozens of other workers.

“We’re standing up for our residents. Owners must invest more from their profits so that residents can get the quality of care they deserve,” she said.In 2010, Illinois lawmakers passed groundbreaking nursing home legislation that set standards to better address quality care concerns. One important benchmark was requiring adequate staffing levels, a standard that many of the homes still have failed to meet.In addition to staffing, workers said many homes are frequently short on supplies. In one case, workers and community activists delivered adult diapers and gloves to the Center Home for the Hispanic Elderly in Humbolt Park after state inspectors cited the home for deficiencies.Recalling a tragic event that points out the need for increased staffing and safety standards, Joan Stanley, a certified nursing assistant at Lakeshore Nursing Home, explained: “A patient who was in a wheel chair and had been smoking caught fire at our nursing home and burned to death. We tried to put the fire out, but there were no fire blankets.“These owners made an overall profit of $50 million last year. If they just invested some of that money to offer better wages, it would help to reduce worker turnover. When more workers remain on the job for longer periods of time, the level of expertise increases. More experienced workers at an adequate staffing level could prevent some of these tragic events,” she added.SEIU officials said family members of nursing home residents have reached out to workers and the union in the past in search of solutions to problems that impact their relatives. The union played an important role in helping to pass the 2010 legislation that was praised by healthcare professionals. Still, care providers work under stressful conditions that need to be addressed, the union said.
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