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AFSCME’s Saunders commends bold step to protect nursing home staff and residents

AFSCME President Lee Saunders released the following statement responding to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rule on nursing home minimum staffing requirements:

“Current conditions in nursing homes are notoriously harrowing – a threat to the safety of both residents and staff. Nursing home workers have been warning for years that dangerously inadequate staffing levels put them in harm’s way and compromise patient care. We have a full-blown staffing crisis, with hundreds of thousands of workers suffering both mental and physical fatigue from crushing workloads.
“So, on behalf of AFSCME nursing home workers and all AFSCME members, I am grateful for this proposed rule, which takes important steps toward addressing the problem – including a requirement that a registered nurse be on site at all hours and protections that provide for greater levels of personal care by nurse aides. These aides are the backbone of the nursing home sector, and they need additional support in order to provide compassionate care to some of our most vulnerable people.
“The Biden-Harris administration has stepped up to the plate to address nursing home staffing. Now, it’s also time for Congress to do its job. Hospital-based staffing is at the breaking point, with RNs leaving the bedside and fleeing the profession altogether. Minimum staffing ratios in acute care facilities are desperately needed, and AFSCME calls on Congress to meaningfully address this problem by adopting legislation like the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act, sponsored by Congresswoman Schakowsky and Senator Brown.
“Nursing home workers are not alone in confronting dire staffing shortages. This is a challenge in all areas of public service – corrections, sanitation, schools, social service agencies and more. AFSCME has launched an initiative called ‘Staff the Front Lines’ designed to strengthen our communities by improving recruitment and retention of public service workers.
“Too often, nursing homes are run by private corporations who care about cost-cutting and profit-making above all. This proposed rule puts the dignity of staff and residents front and center where they belong. I had the privilege of accompanying AFSCME nurses to a recent meeting with Secretary Becerra, where we discussed the health care staffing crisis at length and strongly urged the administration to take bold action. AFSCME will be submitting a public comment on this proposed rule, and we look forward to these reforms becoming a reality on the ground for the courageous everyday heroes who do this essential work.”

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