PRESS RELEASE: Representative Sheryl Delozier Visits with Direct-Care Workers to Learn How Better Jobs Lead to Better Care
Pennsylvania Will Need Tens of Thousands More Direct-Care Workers by 2016
Mechanicsburg, PA — Today Pennsylvania State Representative Sheryl Delozier became the sixth state legislator this year to participate in a Come Care with Me Day, sponsored by PHI as part of its Health Care for Health Care Workers campaign.
Representative Delozier visited Messiah Village, a non-profit retirement community located in Mechanicsburg, where she shadowed three direct-care workers and met with the organization's leaders to discuss recruitment and retention issues and other challenges related to long-term care.
"It was informative to spend time with the residents and staff of Messiah Village in order to obtain a better understanding of the long-term care needs of the Commonwealth's senior citizen population," said Representative Delozier.
"In Pennsylvania, where we have one of the highest senior populations, state government must be committed to ensuring this sector of the medical field is adequately staffed with qualified and dedicated individuals for the benefit of Pennsylvanians, when they need it most," continued the representative, who serves as the secretary of the state's Labor Relations Committee and as a member of the Consumer Affairs and State Government Committees.
Representative Delozier learned about the critical role that direct-care workers — nursing home assistants, home health aides, and personal care attendants — play in caring for older adults and people with disabilities who need daily assistance and support.
Pennsylvania's direct-care workforce totals about 164,000 workers and 56,000 more direct-care workers will be needed by 2016. Direct-care workers outnumber most other occupational groups, including teachers, registered nurses, and law enforcement/public safety workers.
"Our legislators need to look closely at the growing 'care gap' in Pennsylvania, and think ahead. We must begin attracting new workers to the field — and retain existing workers — if we are to ensure continuity of care for Pennsylvania's long-term care consumers," said Tracy Lawless, director, PHI Pennsylvania Health Care for Health Care Workers Campaign.
"Investing in these jobs by providing adequate training and health coverage to these workers is one critical way to help stabilize and grow this essential workforce, while also ensuring quality care for Pennsylvania consumers," said Lawless.
Demand for direct-care services is growing rapidly, making direct-care one of the state's fastest-growing occupations. However, these jobs are often characterized by low wages, inadequate training, and few opportunities for advancement.
In Pennsylvania, the hourly wages for personal and home care aides and home health aides fall between 150 percent ($7.50) and 200 percent ($10) of the Federal Poverty Level. A quarter of the state's direct-care workers who work in home and community-based settings are uninsured compared to eight percent of those employed in institutional settings like nursing facilities.
"We appreciate Representative Delozier's interest in workforce issues in aging services. Currently and in the coming years there will be more jobs in this field," commented Dr. Emerson Lesher, president of Messiah Village.
"Compensation, benefits, and training will be critical issues. We will need to work together as private organizations and through government initiatives to find solutions to this challenge," added Dr. Lesher.
Representative Delozier shadowed Messiah Village's Community Life Leaders Mindy Drake and Kim Keefer, who are trained as certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and Penny Crider, also a CNA. The representative met with Faye Betsker, director of human resources; Crystal Stair, nursing administrator; Dr. Lesher; and Kristen Heisey, vice president of marketing and communications.
Come Care with Me Days give state officials the opportunity to witness direct-care workers in action as they care for elders or people with disabilities.
More information about the Pennsylvania direct-care workforce is available on line at State Facts: Pennsylvania’s Direct-Care Workforce (pdf).
PHI (www.PHInational.org) works to improve the lives of people who need home and residential care — and the lives of the workers who provide that care. Using our workplace and policy expertise, we help consumers, workers, employers and policymakers improve eldercare and disability services by creating quality direct-care jobs. Our goal is to ensure caring, stable relationships between consumers and workers, so that both may live with dignity, respect, and independence. For more information about PHI PolicyWorks and our Health Care for Health Care Workers campaign, visit: www.PHInational.org/policy and www.coverageiscritical.org.
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