Home care staff, nurses still go begging in R.I.

Home care staff, nurses still go begging in R.I.

Employees in Home Care agencies throughout Rhode Island continue to suffer. Examples include pediatric nurses, home health nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc. These specialties are vitally important to the Medicaid home care industry, yet the State of Rhode Island has done nothing – and I mean nothing! – to assist agencies in their ability to hire this staff. It has been 16 years since we have had a reimbursement rate increase for office staff and skilled staff!

Gov. Gina Raimondo wants Rhode Islanders to have competitive wages as compared to Massachusetts and Connecticut, and has spent $45 million of your tax dollars to construct a “Nursing Center” for Brown University, R.I. College and URI in downtown Providence, who then train nurses so they can graduate and go get jobs in our neighboring states. With the closure of Memorial Hospital recently, the nurses that could find jobs working in Rhode Island hospitals, that were at least equal to what they were making at Memorial, would have taken those jobs or they moved on to Massachusetts or Connecticut. None went into home care.

It would take many millions of state and federal tax dollars for the state to provide a reimbursement rate equal to Mass. and Conn. (their higher rates have already been in place for years). The budget for the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services last year was $3.7 billion. Instead, by not providing proper reimbursement rates, parents of pediatric patients will find themselves without the care that their children need to let parents go to work, or pediatric patients without nursing coverage may leave the parents without the assessment skills of a trained nurse, causing them to unnecessarily bring the children into the emergency room at Hasbro leading to very expensive stays in the hospital.

No industry should have to go 16 years without any increase in reimbursement that will help hire, train and retain skilled staff to care for the most vulnerable people in the state. I wonder who the governor or members of the General Assembly look to when their loved ones need care in their home? Doesn’t it just make sense that they would want those skilled professionals coming into their home to have the most up-to-date training and equipment, and be properly compensated for their skills?

Once again the governor has said through her budget that it is not important enough for them to be paid what their counterparts in nursing homes, hospitals and nearby states make. I just don’t get it. In a field where women dominate the workforce, the governor seems to want to hold them back financially.

As I have done in the past for many years, I am calling on the Speaker of the House and the Senate President to work with the Governor so that Home Care nurses in RI do not go into their 17th year without an increase in pay by way of an increase in reimbursement to home care agencies.

Vincent Ward

Woonsocket

Ward is owner of Home Care Services of Rhode Island.