Every Minute Counts Lobby Day: Florida Nursing Home Workers Speak up for Quality Care

The budget cuts to bedside care in Florida’s nursing homes, passed last year, have impacted thousands of nursing homes residents and nursing home workers. Staffing levels were reduced from a minimum weekly average of 2.9 hours of care per resident per day to 2.5 hours, which shortens the amount of time caregivers spend with residents by 18 minutes per day.

The budget cuts also forced more than 2,650 health care workers into unemployment. On January 18, during the second week of the 2012 legislative session, 1199SEIU Florida members took matters into their own hands and traveled to the state capital in Tallahassee to urge lawmakers to restore safe staffing levels in Florida.

“When we learned the state rolled-back minimum safe staffing levels, we felt like our wings were clipped and wondered how are we going to take care of people’s loved ones in the best way possible,” said Doreen Holm, a CNA of 23 years who works at Avanté Nursing Home in Palm Beach.

To encourage the passage of the safe staffing legislation, 1199SEIU members walked the halls of the Capitol and educated lawmakers on the life-threatening impact these cuts are having on Florida’s seniors. They delivered booklets filled with 18 stories to signify the 18 minutes of lost care per day and ask for quality healthcare to be a top priority. Members also asked Governor Rick Scott to “work-a-day” with them in a Florida nursing home so he can see first-hand what the steep budget cuts are doing to Florida’s elders.

“Because of these cuts, basic, simple needs that the rest of us take for granted everyday are not being met,” said Jean Berg, 32-year veteran nursing home worker and Pasco County CNA. “If they get their teeth brushed, it’s a good day. As caregivers, we are put in a terrible position of having to prioritize and the most pressing situations come first – which leaves others at risk of falling out of their beds and not being fed on time. Lawmakers must take this seriously and do the right thing for our elders!”

The Florida Channel, a statewide public television network covering Florida politics and the legislative session, extensively covered the 1199SEIU FL Lobby Day events. Their story included interviews with nursing home workers and both of the bill sponsors as well as clips of the members delivering packets and educating lawmakers. (7:06 is where the coverage begins)

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