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Nursing home workers call for reform, say demonstrations will be held statewide

Four vigils will be held outside WNY facilities
Posted at 12:00 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 00:02:04-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Nursing home workers are calling for reform. Members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East are holding a statewide day of action Thursday. They will hold vigils in front of four facilities in Western New York.

“This industry is broken, and it is not working,” said 1199SEIU Vice President Todd Hobler.

The union said hundreds of workers across the state will hold vigils and demonstrations.

“The attorney general’s report really was an indictment of the industry that we’re saying right here needs significant reform,” Hobler said.

According to the January report, nearly 800 complaints were filed with the NYS Attorney General's office from family members of people in nursing homes.

The report said nursing homes failed to properly isolate positive residents, test employees, and provide proper PPE.

Hobler said the union wants nursing homes to commit 70% of revenue towards resident care and spend more hours per day providing care.

“That there be accountability for an industry that has not been held accountable, that there be transparency for an industry that has generally not been transparent, that there be greater oversight and regulation of this industry so that what happened in this past year does not ever happen again,” Hobler said.

Diana Hoover is a CNA who works on a geriatric floor.

“From the time we walk in, we take care of these COVID patients to the time we leave, being there for the patients," she said. "We need more caregivers, we need more help. Its stressful to see our patients going through not being with their families.”

In a conference call, Wednesday Governor Andrew Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said the current visitation restrictions will remain in place. Cuomo said while staff and residents who wanted the vaccine have received it, vaccinated people can still spread the virus.

"I recognize, as the governor's mentioned, I recognize it's been very hard on the relatives of those who are in nursing homes," Zucker said. "And as soon as we feel it is safe, we will move forward to the appropriate ways to get visitors there."

“Nursing home visitation is really important to our residents, especially during the pandemic," said Hobler in a statement. "Of course, we would support it, but there must be enough caregivers to supervise and screen all visitors coming into the home."

In a letter to lawmakers, the state reports more than 15,000 people living in nursing homes and adult facilities died from COVID-19. The letter was sent after the AG's report that the NYS Department of Health appeared to under count nursing home deaths by 50%. Following the report's release, Zucker said there was “no undercount.”