Essential healthcare workers hold State House rally to demand investment now, not later
“At the same time demand has spiked, staffing is the worst I have ever seen,” said Ian Lacombe, a Registered Nurse who has worked at Butler Hospital for 20 years. “Higher demand and COVID’s effect on staff has led to more hours with less people working, a perfect storm for high burnout.”
With COVID-19 cases again on the rise and a caregiver system stretched to the limit, the Rhode Island General Assembly must invest its relief funding immediately, said essential caregivers represented by SEIU 1199NE at a State House rally on Tuesday. Workers hoped to shine a light on the crisis of care that is cutting across all healthcare sectors and call on the General Assembly to invest available state and federal covid-relief funding now, as intended.
The State House rally comes less than a week after workers at Butler Hospital held an informational picket calling for urgent intervention in what Rhode Island healthcare officials have deemed a “mental health state of emergency.”
It is important, said Senator Louis DiPalma (Democrat, District 12, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton) addressing the crowd of well over 100 healthcare workers, that “workers in the health industry field are appropriately compensated for the work that they do.”
There were workers at the rally representing all sectors of healthcare – from hospitals, nursing homes, community healthcare centers to home child centers and home care providers. Their message? They are struggling. Short staffing, increased demand for services, chronic underfunding and the crushing demands brought on by COVID-10 has created a crisis of care, said workers. Caregivers, who are overwhelmingly women and disproportionately people of color, are burned out and leaving the field, leaving empty, unfilled positions. The system, said union leaders, is at a breaking point.
Rally participants will call on the General Assembly to do the following:
- Stabilize Care New England, one of Rhode Island’s largest employers and second largest hospital provider
- Expand access to mental health and substance abuse services amid a massive surge of need and shortage of staffing, training and facility space
- Comprehensive workforce stabilization strategy across all caregiving sectors that includes recruitment, training and development initiatives
- Direct payments to healthcare workers to facilitate retention and workforce stabilization
“Our patients need us now more than ever, but the system is failing them. In the ER we have had days where people must wait in their cars to access services, as our screening area is overly full. It is not unusual to have a wait time measured in hours before you can even walk into triage,” said Ian Lacombe, a Registered Nurse who has worked at Butler Hospital for 20 years. “At the same time demand has spiked, staffing is the worst I have ever seen. Higher demand and COVID’s effect on staff has led to more hours with less people working, a perfect storm for high burnout.”
“Our health care workers are exhausted, the ranks are depleted, we’re all working shorts and there’s no relief in sight,” said Representative Jacquelyn Baginski (Democrat, District 17, Cranston). “So it’s time for something new. It’s time to invest in our frontline caregivers.
“Our elected representatives have a responsibility to put nurses in a position to provide quality care for our communities,” said Deanna Costa, a registered nurse at Women and Infants Hospital. “Chronic understating is unacceptable and a threat to our ability to meet the needs of patients that depend on our services.”
“We did not become health care workers to make a lot of money. We are everyday, working class people,” said Dana Ciolfi, who retired two weeks ago after 43 years as a Medical Technologist at Women and Infants Hospital. “We do this work because we love taking care of those people who need us.”
SEIU 1199 New England represents over 5000 employees across Rhode Island. [This has been corrected. Uprise RI previously and erroneously reported the number as 900.]