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Nursing Home Workers on Verge of Strike, Including at One West Hartford Facility

SEIU protest. Photo credit: Shana Surek (courtesy of CTNewsJunkie.com)

The Reservoir in West Hartford, which is operated by Genesis Healthcare, is one of the facilities where workers plan to strike beginning Friday, May 14, while a strike at the West Hartford Health and Rehabilitation Center is delayed until May 28.

Sophia Walker, a registered nurse at The Reservoir, a Genesis HealthCare facility, said getting the COVID-19 vaccine was ‘setting a great example for the Black community.’ The first nursing home vaccinations in Connecticut were administered at The Reservoir on Dec. 18, 2020. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

By Christine Stuart,CTNewsJunkie.com

Ronni Newton, We-Ha.com, contributed to this report

Lawmakers are hoping to avoid a nursing home strike, but it seems imminent as the union representing the workers has declined a proposal by Gov. Ned Lamont to increase funding for the homes and the workers by $280 million.

“Hearts in a yard are not enough. Being called heroes for one year is not enough,” Dori Harrington said during a virtual press conference Wednesday.

Harrington, a licensed practical nurse, says the additional $280 million Lamont put on the table is not enough.

“The proposal that Gov. Lamont has made for two years does not solve this problem. That only fixes the problem until he’s out of office,” she said.

Lamont’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds Jr. said Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw told SEIU that the $280 million funding package, which includes a 4.5% pay increase for workers, “was the best and final offer.”

“It provides for the highest wage increase we’ve ever seen for these frontline workers,” Mounds said.

Rob Baril, president of District 1199 SEIU, says the governor’s proposal falls far short of what they need to stabilize the workforce and provide care.

“You cannot recruit people to come in and staff nursing homes at $16.50,” Baril said.

He said that’s what the governor’s proposal would get them to. The unions are looking for $20 an hour.

“They need a livable wage, health insurance and the ability to retire,” Baril said.

On Friday around 3,000 workers from 28 homes are prepared to strike. Strike notices at seven homes were delayed until May 28. A strike will cost the state around $2 million per day.

“As long as the parties keep talking, today and tomorrow, I’m optimistic they can get there,” House Speaker Matt Ritter said Wednesday.

Ritter says he wants them to reach a deal.

“Both sides have merit in their arguments right so if they can recognize they both have different functions, different responsibilities and different view points, I think we can get there,” Ritter said.

The association representing the nursing homes declined comment.

“It is unsafe for us and for our patients. They are not getting the care they need because we don’t have the staff to provide it,” Harrington said.

The Reservoir, West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

National Guard on standby

In a news release issued Wednesday afternoon, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) announced that the Connecticut National Guard, together with DPH inspectors, are prepared to help monitor care and safety of nursing home residents in the event a strike goes forward by unionized employees at 26 skilled nursing facilities Friday.

“DPH’s role in the event of a strike is to monitor and assess the care and services provided to residents to ensure protection of their health and safety,” Acting DPH Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford said in a statement. “Our professional staff are fully prepared and activated to do so. The state of Connecticut will not sacrifice quality of care for nursing home residents.”

DPH said they “will conduct on-site strike monitoring inspections at varying times at all affected nursing homes on a 24-hour basis. Department inspectors will assess the care and services provided to patients. As part of the inspection process, DPH will review staffing, observe patient care and review medical records.”

Gifford noted that DPH and National Guard members will not act as replacement staff for the striking workers, nor will they perform direct care roles.

Contingency plans were approved for the 26 nursing homes owned by iCare Health Network, Genesis Healthcare and Autumn Lake Healthcare. The Reservoir in West Hartford is owned by Genesis Healthcare.

The strike date for seven nursing homes owned by RegalCare was postponed until May 28 “based on lack of sufficient staffing arrangements,” Commissioner Gifford said.

Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.

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