You are currently viewing ‘Nobody wants to come to work’: Easton nurses join statewide protests for better pay

‘Nobody wants to come to work’: Easton nurses join statewide protests for better pay

Evaene Hancle says she arrived at work one morning this week to find only one colleague, a nursing aide, who is caring for 54 patients at Gardens for Memory Care in Easton.

“Staffing here has gotten so bad,” she said.

She joined half a dozen of her colleagues outside the long-term care facility at 500 Washington St. and thousands of nursing home workers across the state on Wednesday in a picket of a demand underway for better pay, staff and benefits for care home workers.

“It’s a shame it took a pandemic to really highlight the issues in long-term care to begin with,” said Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare union representative Tonya Morrow-Wagner. Pennsylvania who attended the Easton rally.

Gardens in Easton staff picketed alongside SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania around this time last year to draw attention to the same issues.

Since then, the state has responded with three plans to increase the required daily time spent with patients, set new standards on nursing home renovations and establish new requirements for companies looking to buy care facilities. long term.

A fourth package that includes proposed updates to resident rights and staff-to-patient ratios is “coming soon,” said Barry Ciccocioppo, spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf.

“The Department of Health is working on four sets of proposed regulations to make vital updates to better protect both residents and staff in nursing homes. The regulations proposed by the Wolf administration are based on the latest research as well as input from subject matter experts and industry players and are informed by lessons learned during the global COVID-19 pandemic.” , Ciccocioppo said this week.

Pennsylvania’s nursing home regulations haven’t been updated in more than 25 years, and currently 72,000 people in the state depend on these facilities for long-term care, according to the Wolf administration. This number is expected to increase rapidly over the decade.

The SEIU has proposed the state consider staffing ratios of one caregiver for every 12 residents by next year, Morrow-Wagner said, which would require nursing homes to provide higher salary competitive and recruit more staff, otherwise they will continue to hemorrhage. staff because of burnout.

“There are no staff. Nobody wants to come to work, the pay is low and we can’t keep anyone here,” said Suki Mulero, dietary technician at The Gardens in Easton. Mulero has worked for the establishment for more than 20 years. “When we started working here we were getting raises of 75 cents on the dollar a year, but for the last five years it’s been 10 cents every six months, 35 cents a year.”

Hancle is a Certified Practical Nurse. She left The Gardens for Memory Care in Easton in 2018 after nearly 20 years in her role. She now works at Cedarbrook Fountain Hill in Lehigh County during the day, but continues to work part-time at The Gardens most mornings.

“When this new company took over I had to leave because my salary was never right, the staff was getting bad, no health care, nothing and I was getting old. I had to go somewhere where I could get a better salary,” Hancle said.

Last year, the union was able to negotiate a 75-cent-on-the-dollar raise with Priority Healthcare Group, a Valley Stream, New York-based company that owns the Easton facility.

The acting administrator of The Gardens for Memory Care in Easton and regional director of operations for Priority Healthcare, Ryan Wismer, did not return a message seeking comment. An emailed message seeking comment from Priority’s head office also went unanswered.

Starting pay continues to hover around $12, and less for workers with limited experience, according to the Easton picketers.

Lisa Counterman’s father resides at The Gardens in Easton. He needs an assistant to change soiled panties and clean him regularly, including wiping food from his mouth after eating. She attended Wednesday’s picket line and said she found it hard to see her father sometimes having to wait for hours for his basic needs to be met.

“It’s obvious when you walk through the door. They need help, there are not enough (workers),” she said. “He’s not getting proper care, but they’re doing the best they can with what they have.”

The protest in Easton was one of 35 in Pennsylvania, including Reading, according to Karen Applegate Gowley, director of communications for SEIU Healthcare PA.

Workers at The Gardens for Memory Care in Easton were due to begin a round of union negotiations with Priority Healthcare this week.

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Glenn Epps can be reached at gepps@lehighvalleylive.com.

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