Guest columnist Natasha Takyi-Micah is a public policy and external affairs associate at the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Community Solutions. She joined the staff with work experience in nonprofit and government organizations in Northeast Ohio.
COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes across the country – and in Ohio – reveal just one of the risks nursing home residents face. While vaccinations can mitigate this threat, others, linked to disparities such as race, socioeconomic status, gender and geography, remain. And all of them can contribute to different residents having very different health outcomes.
Unfortunately, little current data on the impact of these disparities is available. However, based on previous studies and recent Center for Community Solutions interviews with experts in the field, we know that these disparities exist.
We know they lead to significant gaps in care and poorer outcomes related to quality of life, chronic disease and overall well-being. And we know that the source of these disparities tends to be staffing, training and compensation issues.
Often the problems arise from high staff turnover, shortage of employees and low wages. In fact, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, licensed practical nurses who worked in nursing homes across Ohio earned just $ 11.04 an hour in 2016.
It is not enough money to cover the normal cost of living. Why is the salary so low?
We know that Medicaid is currently the primary source of funding for long-term services and supports, including nursing homes, and it just isn’t paying enough. Some researchers have reported that “ensuring a living wage for direct care workers is not sustainable if the main source of funding for LTSS remains the Medicaid program”.
In other words, the Medicaid reimbursement is too low.
The state budget process is underway and increased funding for nursing facilities has been proposed. That may be good news, but it doesn’t have to be money for research to provide more data or solve staffing issues like training, salaries, and quality. In fact, some quality provisions have been removed or delayed.
Therefore, we believe lawmakers should think about how these funds should be spent to raise wages and create implicit biased training for nursing home workers.
A recent study from the University of Massachusetts-Boston reported that if the salaries of direct care workers, such as licensed practical nurses in nursing homes, increased, staff turnover would be lower and the purchasing power of employees. would increase. This would translate into an additional influx of $ 17-22 billion more into the economy than if these employees did not receive a higher rate of pay.
Currently, there is no specific training on implicit bias for nursing home staff. However, some states, such as Michigan, are implementing mandatory implicit bias training for all healthcare workers. This type of training can help healthcare workers recognize their own biases, avoid them, and apply strategies to provide the best treatment plans for their patients, regardless of their racial background.
If our lawmakers are to support institutions as they continue to grapple with a pandemic that only occurs once in a century, they should also include policies that support both residents and the staff who serve them in examining how investment can support training on implicit biases and higher wages. for the staff of retirement homes.
If they do, residents of Ohio’s long-term care system will live healthier, happier, and more equitable lives.
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