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Workers In Nursing Homes And Homes For The Developmentally-Disabled ‘Press’ New York State ‘For Urgent Staff Recruitment Drive’

Published Tuesday, September 15, 2020
by Michael Gormley/Newsday
Workers In Nursing Homes And Homes For The Developmentally-Disabled ‘Press’ New York State ‘For Urgent Staff Recruitment Drive’

(ALBANY, NEW YORK) – Workers who have cared for residents of nursing homes and homes for the developmentally-disabled during the COVID-19 Pandemic are warning that their ranks are dwindling - rapidly, and they're pressing New York State to mount a major recruiting and retention campaign before a second wave of the virus hits.

Advocates who recently testified at state legislative hearings that facilities say they are struggling to attract and retain Workers who provide critical therapeutic and emotional support to residents - and who are being lured away by better wages and opportunity for advancement in the Fast-Food Industry.

"Prior to COVID, our system was ‘at a tipping point with low wages and hard work,’" Kathy Bunce, the Co-Chairwoman of the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York, testified in a recent legislative hearing.

Now, "families ‘are worried, they are frustrated, and they are losing hope,’" Bunce testified.

Nursing homes are calling for an aggressive recruitment and retention program to address the loss of Staff, most of whom are Black and Brown Women and Men working for low wages.

Nursing homes and homes for the developmentally-disabled house people who are among the most vulnerable to the Coronavirus.

Also, at the height of the pandemic, Staffs were sapped when Workers became ill or had to stay home to care for relatives, or quit for jobs that paid more and posed less of a risk of contracting the virus.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an on-line "portal" where retired Health Care Workers from New York and out of state could submit their credentials and availability to work in New York during the crisis.

"The state budget ‘must look at long-term care as an investment, and not as an expense,’" said Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, which represents Skilled Nursing Providers.

"There ‘has to be a population of men and women who want to come into long-term care,’" Hanse said. "What we’ve seen is ‘people leaving long-term care during the pandemic.’"

Officials in the New York State Health Department, which regulates nursing homes, and the State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities expressed support for recruitment of more Direct Care Workers who deal closely with residents in providing medications and emotional support.

Denise DeCarlo, a spokeswoman for the State Developmental Disabilities Office, said the agency "continually takes steps to recruit Direct Care Staff, to enhance their wages, and to retain qualified staff by creating a rewarding and competitive professional career path."

DeCarlo noted that Agency Staff "was impacted by COVID and adjustments were made to ensure appropriate staffing levels were continually maintained."

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