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"It's life or death" Need for more home health-care workers increases

Gere Kavanaugh, Daisy Cabaluna
Posted at 10:13 PM, Dec 02, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Scott Hottois, the Vice President of Operations at Health Force WNY, a home health care agency, said last year, he needed to hire about 150 home health-care workers. He said now, he is in need of around 200.

"For every home care worker that I need, that we're not able to hire, that translates to one patient or one family member that isn't getting care," Hottois said.

Renee Christian, a 33-year-old, business owning single mother, said she is one of those who isn't getting the care she needs.

"So I'm sleeping in my chair when I don't have staff. I'm not eating all day when I don't have staff. Not because I can't eat, but because when you eat you have to go to the bathroom. When you drink you have to go to the bathroom. I need assistance toileting," Christian said, "What do I look like? I didn't commit a crime. I didn't do anything wrong. I was born with a disability that I didn't choose."

Christian said she's been receiving care from home health-care aides for 14 years, and their pay has never increased. She said now so many people have left the industry, it's a challenge for her to find the help she needs.

"$12.50 an hour is not enough. It's not enough to take care of a family. It's not a living wage," Christian said, "They can go to Tim Horton's or Burger King or anywhere like that and make $15-$17 an hour easily doing half of the work."

The Fair Pay for Home Care Act is currently in the New York State Legislature. The bill looks to increase home care workers' pay.

"The problem we have is that bill and others like it have been there for a long time," Hottois said.

But Christian said she doesn't have time.

"I need the legislators to approve the fair pay act. It's life of death," Christian said, "I have more to offer than just my disability and just the help that I need. I'm so much more than that. But in the moment, it doesn't feel like that. This one thing defines everything in my life, and it shouldn't."

Christian has a GoFundMe to help her with the out of pocket expenses she is facing to hire workers.