Nursing Home Enforcement Bill Passes Senate Human Services; SEIU Healthcare Applauds

SPRINGFIELD—Members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which represents 92,000 caregivers in the nursing home, hospital, home care and child care industries, applaud the members of the Illinois Senate Human Services Committee for their prompt passage of SB1510 which would add much-needed enforcement to back up the existing legal guidelines for nursing home staffing levels.

“I am supposed to care for around 10 to 12 residents but instead I often care for 36 and sometimes 72. There’s no way I can provide all the care my residents need and that breaks my heart. This bill is needed…”

-Shantonia Jackson, nursing home worker

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“There are a lot of lives that will be positively impacted if this bill becomes law,” said nursing home worker Shantonia Jackson who testified at today’s hearing. “I am supposed to care for around 10 to 12 residents but instead I often care for 36 and sometimes 72. There’s no way I can provide all the care my residents need and that breaks my heart. This bill is needed because it’s just not right for nursing homes to short staff like they do.”

The bill would provide for significant financial penalties for nursing homes which fail to staff at the legally required levels. Despite the groundbreaking nursing home reform laws on the books in Illinois, the state ranks at or near the bottom nationally in staffing.

“The problem is that nursing home owners are putting profits ahead of their responsibility to provide care for vulnerable people,” said Shaba Andrich, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Vice President and Director of Nursing Homes. “This is despite the fact that Illinois nursing homes have received $508 million in bed tax payouts to be used in getting them up to legal staffing levels. They got the money, but the staffing levels are still as low. Where did all that money go? Who profited at the expense of seniors and caregivers?”

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“Illinois nursing homes have received $508 million in bed tax payouts to be used in getting them up to legal staffing levels…Where did all that money go? Who profited at the expense of seniors and caregivers?”

-Shaba Andrich, SEIU Healthcare

Currently, nursing homes rarely incur penalties for failing to meet legal staffing levels, and the penalties they do occasionally face are insignificant. It’s far more profitable for nursing homes to flout legal staffing levels and pay the occasional penalty than it is for them to staff at the legally required levels. And it is residents and their overworked caregivers who pay the price.

SB1510 would be a significant step forward in remedying the problem of short staffing in Illinois nursing homes. The short staffing penalties the bill would levy are roughly equal to what nursing homes would have paid in wages and benefits had they staffed at the legally required levels, thus taking the profit incentive out of short staffing.

As SB1510 moves on to the Illinois Senate floor, it carries with it the hopes of SEIU Healthcare Illinois members who witness the impact of short staffing in their daily lives and are speaking out for their coworkers and for the residents who often lack the ability to speak for themselves.

Hopefully, it will deliver a message to nursing home CEOs that there is no longer any profit to be made from short staffing workers and shorting residents on care.

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