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OP-ED: Massachusetts Should Invest in Nursing Home Workers to Improve Care

April 28, 2016

Supporting efforts to improve the quality of nursing home care in in Massachusetts, PHI President Jodi M. Sturgeon published an op-ed in the Boston Globe on April 28 calling for the state to make a significant investment in its workforce of certified nursing assistants (CNAs).

“To ensure quality care in Massachusetts’s 400 nursing facilities, the state needs to invest in quality jobs for CNAs,” Sturgeon writes.

“Higher-paying CNA jobs — along with better training, on-the-job support, and opportunities to learn and grow — would attract more workers to nursing homes, help reduce the industry’s chronically high turnover rates, and enable CNAs to provide care to the best of their abilities,” she writes.

Her op-ed echoes the conclusions of Raise the Floor, a newly published PHI report on improving nursing home jobs across the country.

House Budget Includes Wage Increase

Sturgeon’s op-ed appeared the day after the Massachusetts House unanimously passed a FY17 budget plan that would allot “not less than $35.5 million” toward improving nursing home workers’ wages and benefits.

The proposal is a positive step forward, Sturgeon writes, but “to truly make a significant impact, that figure needs to be higher — around $90 million, targeted specifically to improving compensation and support for front-line workers.

“It is up to the legislature to allocate these funds — and ensure that nursing homes are held accountable for providing quality, well-paying jobs to their 40,000 front-line caregivers,” Sturgeon adds.

The House budget plan now moves to the state Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Need to Fix Staffing Crisis

In January, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) submitted his own budget proposal calling for a $30 million increase in nursing home spending, but did not specifically tie the increase to higher wages.

Advocates say that nursing home workers deserve a wage increase — similar to the increase personal care attendants received last year — to reverse the growing trend of vacancies and staffing shortages in nursing homes.

“There is a dire need to head off a looming crisis,” an April 22 Boston Globe editorial said. “Vacancy rates for certified nursing assistants already are high — 10.6 percent are unfilled statewide — and will climb further unless the jobs come with a living wage.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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