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Raise the Bar calls on RI nursing home industry to invest its millions in profit in frontline caregivers and residents amid pandemic



We risk our lives to come here every day, just to make a difference,” said Aletha Browne, a ward clerk/med tech at Pawtucket Skilled Nursing and Rehab.

As nursing home workers struggle with lack of PPE, supplies, staffing & training, new report demonstrates RI’s nursing home industry is making millions in profit.

A report issued by Raise the Bar on Resident Care, “Beyond the Bottom Line: A Call for Increased Investment in Rhode Island Nursing Homes,” calls on the industry to reinvest its hundreds of millions in profit back in frontline care amid the coronavirus emergency, refuting claims they cannot afford needed safe staffing measures, personal protective equipment, training and wage increases. 

“Our new report shows without a shadow of doubt that Rhode Island’s nursing home industry is tremendously profitable and needs to use those resources to solve the staffing crisis made worse by the coronavirus epidemic,” said Adanjesus Marin, Coordinator of Raise the Bar on Resident Care, “No time is more urgent than now to pass the Nursing Home Staffing & Quality Care Act to ensure there is enough caregivers to staff nursing homes during this emergency.”

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • Rhode Island’s nursing homes made $241,947,235 in total profit In 2017 & 2018 alone. In addition, the 30 nursing homes that on average provided residents with the fewest hours of care made over $100,000,000 in profit during this same two-year period.
  • Rhode Island has the lowest average number of care hours per nursing home resident per day in all of New England, and also ranks 42nd in the nation for average total hours of care.
  • Infection control violations are significantly more common in short-staffed facilities, with 65% of homes receiving only one-star ratings from CMS for staffing having infection control violations (compared to 53% of five-star homes).
  • Several of Rhode Island’s nursing homes that are staffing close to or above the 4.1 standard are profitable. The Elmhurst Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center for example averages 3.7 hours of care per resident per day and earned combined profits of $12,704,979 in 2017 and 2018.

Participating frontline caregivers shared the impact of both short-staffing at their facilities as well as their current lack of access to personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing and hazard pay. Across the country, nursing home workers are holding demonstrations today to demand greater personal protective equipment from the federal government.

Because of low pay, most healthcare workers work two jobs, at two different facilities, which facilitates the possible spread of disease from one home to another. Because of this, many healthcare workers are no longer working two jobs, effectively losing half their income.

“Even before the coronavirus hit, short staffing was a problem at my facility with CNAs responsible for 10 residents each. Now, because caregivers are afraid and are leaving, 2-3 CNAs can be responsible for 39 residents for the whole day,” said Aletha Browne, a ward clerk/med tech at Pawtucket Skilled Nursing and Rehab. “We need clear communication from management, more than one mask every three days and better wages to prevent more caregivers from leaving…

“We risk our lives to come here every day, just to make a difference.”

Aletha Browne, wearing the mask she has to wear for three days at a time.

Finally, participants renewed the urgency of passing The Nursing Home Staffing & Quality Care Act (Senate Bill 2519: Senator Maryellen Goodwin and House Bill 7624: Representative Scott Slater) that will

  • Establish a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, the federal recommendation for quality care
  • Secure funding to raise wages to recruit and retain a stable, qualified workforce 
  • Invest in needed training and skills enhancement for caregivers to provide care for patients with increasing acuity and complex healthcare needs.

“During this pandemic, CNA’s and frontline caregivers are all our vulnerable seniors in nursing homes have. These frontline caregivers are heroes and we should honor them by enacting policies that help this special group of workers,” said Representative Scott Slater, “I am not sure when the General Assembly will be back in session but this is the year we have to address our worsening staffing crisis in nursing homes.”

Representative Scott Slater

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Yesterday, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said that she doesn’t have “an authority via executive order to require private employers to tell them how they have to pay their employees. That’s certainly not within the scope of my executive authority.”

Raise the Bar on Resident Care is a coalition of nursing home caregivers, clergy members, community partners, nursing home residents and family members working to end the staffing crisis in Rhode Island nursing homes. Coalition partners include: District 1199 SEIU, RI Organizing Project, Sista Fire, RI Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, Women’s Fund, Newport Partnership for Families, Fuerza Laboral, Protect our Healthcare Coalition, R.A.M.P  (Real Access Motivates Progress), Economic Progress Institute, RI AFL-CIO, and RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

About the Author

The hardest working news organization in Rhode Island! Uprise RI was founded in 2017 by Steve Ahlquist, and focuses on civil liberties, social justice, and human rights.