PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Although the numbers are down in Rhode Island, there is an urge to better protect the state’s most vulnerable population in the wake of COVID-19.
Nursing home residents are the most vulnerable to the virus and now Sen. Maj. Whip Maryellen Goodwin and Rep. Scott Slater, along with a group called “Raise the Bar,” are pushing for reforms of those centers after they have been hit hard by the virus.
“What that means is that you can be a nursing home resident today and you have no guarantee of care. You can go 24 hours without receiving any care while you’re in a nursing home and we believe that is unacceptable,” added Adanjesus Marin, Resident Care Coordinator and “Raise The Bar” organizer.
The state says roughly 75% of the reported deaths in the Ocean State have come from nursing homes.
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Goodwin and Slater held a virtual news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday to push for passage of the “Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act” which calls for a change to the status quo of nursing homes in the state.
“Seniors here in the state of Rhode Island really are out state treasures. Not only do we love them but they helped build this country and they helped build this state,” Goodwin said. “They are really a link to our past. They deserve better and certainly the caregivers deserve better.”
Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid place the Ocean State 42nd in the country in terms of average hours-of-care nursing home residents receive. Goodwin and Slater say Rhode Island is the only state in New England without minimum staffing standards and they want that changed.
These bills would set one at mandate of 4.1 hours per patient per day. Multiple healthcare advocacy groups have come out against this idea including the Rhode Island Health Care Association.
The group argues the suggested mandate of 4.1 hours is higher than any other state in the country.
Scott Fraser, president of the association, says mandatory staffing is, “an unfunded mandate making Rhode Island an outlier in the nursing home industry. If passed, these bills will decimate the homes our elderly rely on for care and result in job loss across the industry in Rhode Island.”
Fraser also says it’s simply not true.
“There is no other state in the country that has 4.1 hours as mandatory minimum staffing, Rhode Island manages more than 3.6 hours of this staffing and in doing so we come in consistently at the top of near the top with quality guidelines on national reports,” said Fraser.
Fraser continued saying these proposed bills are nothing more than additional funding mandates and increasing these hours will spread the staff thin, putting an additional financial burden on the centers themselves.
Gov. Gina Raimondo has acknowledged staffing shortages in group homes which prompted her decision to bring in the National Guard to assist staff where needed.
In Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott addressed nursing homes saying her team is monitoring these centers on a daily basis.
“There have been some individual homes that have had infection control issues cited in previous surveys,” she said. “But the challenges they have faced with COVID-19 have much more to do with how infection this virus is.”
The National Guard is scheduled to be in nursing homes until the end of the month but that could be extended.