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REPORT: South Carolina Must Strengthen Direct-Care Workforce to Prepare to Care

June 17, 2015

Higher wages and better training standards are necessary if South Carolina hopes to build a direct-care workforce strong enough to care for its aging population, a special task force says in a new report.

The South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health convened the task force last year to assess the state’s long-term care system and “establish a strategic direction that meets the future needs of the system and those it serves,” its website says.

Over the course of 18 months, more than 60 taskforce members — representing long-term care providers, health care professionals, and state government officials, among others — compiled the report, which lists 30 recommendations that would improve long-term care in South Carolina.

Several of the recommendations pertain directly to direct-care workers, including:

  • Developing a comprehensive statewide training program for direct-care workers in home and community-based settings;
  • Creating a Direct Care Worker Registry, “to be used as a resource for consumers, family caregivers and providers”; and
  • Raising reimbursement rates for home and community-based service providers, making it possible for them to improve direct-care workers’ wages.

Median hourly wages for the two major home care worker occupations — personal care aides and home health aides — were just $9.13 and $9.24, respectively, in 2014, according to the PHI State Data Center.

Additional recommendations focus on supporting family caregivers, protecting elders and people with disabilities from abuse, and establishing efficient long-term care system by promoting a coordinated care model.

The task force’s report shows that, by 2029, an additional 1.1 million South Carolinians will be aged 65 and older, creating a demand for long-term care that far exceeds the state’s current capacity to deliver it.

“I see this report as the starting gun,” said South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) at a June 10 press conference. “We’ve got a race against time.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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