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Caregivers, family and community members hold memorial service for nursing home victims of Covid

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Hundreds of nursing home residents and caregiver lives have already been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and cases are again on the rise. Now is not the time for more stalling or studies; now is the time to take decisive action to solve the staffing crisis and protect our state’s most vulnerable citizens. We need the Legislature, Department of Health and Governor to implement a solution now before more lives are lost.”


Nursing home caregivers, family and community members held a memorial service in front of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) to mourn the hundreds of nursing home victims of COVID-19 and to urge the General Assembly, Department of Health and Governor to take decisive action to solve Rhode Island’s staffing crisis. Since the beginning of the pandemic, almost 800 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 complications in Rhode Island. Rhode Island ranks second in the nation for COVID-10-related nursing home deaths according to the Kaiser Family Foundation with cases doubling in the past week.

During the memorial the number of deaths from every nursing home in Rhode Island was read aloud, and a person stepped forward to place a sheet of paper bearing the nursing come’s name near a sculpture of a hand holding a stethoscope.

“We are here today to remember the hundreds of nursing home residents and caregivers that lost their lives to COVID in Rhode Island. We had nine residents die on my unit alone. Many caregivers, including myself, got sick with COVID, and one of my co-workers died,” said Adelina Ramos, a CNA at Greenville Nursing Center. “But thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, we are still dealing with staffing shortages every day.”

Rhode Island currently ranks 41st in the nation for average hours of care nursing home residents receive. Studies show that infection-control violations are significantly higher in short-staffed facilities, with 66% of homes receiving only one-star ratings from CMS for staffing having infection control violations.

Despite the recent spike of COVID-cases in Rhode Island nursing homes, the Assembly has to date failed to pass the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act (H7624/S2519) which would pass a minimum of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, the federally recommended amount. Instead it opted for a toothless study commission that would further “study” staffing in nursing homes as residents and caregivers continue to contract the virus. Additionally, although the RIDOH has the authority to establish staffing regulations, they have not taken action.


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“At my facility we lost over 20 residents, some who I cared for for over a decade. I had to place my own residents in body bags, people I knew and loved for years,” said Dawn Auclair, CNA at Hopkins Manor. “We need our elected officials to start treating nursing home lives like they matter. If the staffing bill was passed maybe those facilities could have taken better precautions to prevent the spread of COVID.”

“Hundreds of nursing home residents and caregiver lives have already been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and cases are again on the rise. Now is not the time for more stalling or studies; now is the time to take decisive action to solve the staffing crisis and protect our state’s most vulnerable citizens. We need the Legislature, Department of Health and Governor to implement a solution now before more lives are lost,” said Adanjesus Marin, Coordinator of Raise the Bar for Resident Care.

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com