Pennsylvania healthcare union calls for nursing home regulation reform

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Members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania are urging Gov. Tom Wolf and the state's health department to back a list of changes aimed at improving both resident care and staff support. The union said the state hasn't updated nursing home regulations since the 1990s, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported Feb. 8.

The nurse and healthcare workers union is asking for the following changes: 

-Implement higher minimum requirements on the hours of care provided daily to each resident. The group says increased staffing is needed to increase hours spent with each resident from 2.7 hours per day to 4.1. 

-Additional oversight on facility ownership to protect residents and staff and keep those with a bad track record from operating other facilities. 

-Higher wages and benefits like medical insurance and paid time off.

-Require facilities to have a six-month stockpile of personal protective equipment.

-Provide training on person-centered care and health equity. 

While COVID-19 has devastated long-term care facilities, union members said problems in the industry existed long before the pandemic.   

"We're not here to blame anybody," Matthew Yarnell, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania's president, said in a Feb. 8 news conference. "We're here to say enough is enough. We need to protect seniors, respect caregivers and we need to drive a regulation that sets real reform for Pennsylvania nursing homes so that we don't ever have this kind of disaster again." 

Nearly 162,000 long-term care facility residents have died of COVID-19 nationwide, according to data from The Atlantic's COVID-19 Tracking Project last updated Feb. 4. In Pennsylvania, 11,578 long-term care facility residents have died of COVID-19. 

Editor's note: Becker's has reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and will update the report as more information becomes available. 

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