Nursing Home Workers’ Strike Raises Questions About Care

handsIf California nursing home employees go on strike, who will provide care for patients residing in the facilities? Should families of those patients have concerns about nursing home neglect? According to an article in the Marin Independent Journal, sixty nursing home workers went on strike last month in San Rafael following a string of nursing facility violations from government regulators. The strike was aimed at forcing the nursing facility to cease its understaffing practices and to encourage a work environment in which providing a threshold level of care for patients is among the most important logistics of running the facility. Even if such a strike is intended to improve conditions, who cares for patients while employees are on strike?

Understaffing and High Turnover Limits Quality of Care

The recent strike occurred at San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center, which is owned by Brius Healthcare Services. With more than 80 facilities in California, Brius is the largest nursing home chain in our state. For the last 18 months, employees of the nursing home have been working without having a contract. Why are employees working without a contract? About a year and a half ago, those workers rejected the terms of a union-negotiated contracted because it did not do enough to deal with the serious understaffing problem at the facility.

According to Maria Martinez, a Certified Nursing Assistant, patients at the nursing home suffer because of its nearly constant problems with understaffing. Why is the facility routinely understaffed? One of the underlying issues, Martinez suggests, is the low wage paid by the facility. Without a promise of a sufficient wage, employees are unlikely to remain at the nursing home for an extended length of time. Between 2012 and 2014, the turnover rate was 50 percent.

As a result of the understaffing, nurses and assistants cannot provide patients with the kind of care many of them require. Olga Espinoza, one nursing assistant at the facility who has remained in her position for the last five years, explained that “one nursing assistant ends up taking care of 13 patients at a time.” That is not a sufficient ratio of patient to nursing staff if we want to ensure that nursing home residents receive proper care. As Espinoza emphasized, “it’s not fair to the patients.” Another nursing assistant divulged even more concerning numbers. Often during the night shift (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.), the facility has only one employee working and 46 patients in need of care.

Determining the Effectiveness of a Strike

When the San Rafael nursing home employees went on strike, the nursing home pulled employees from nearby Brius facilities to ensure that patients would not suffer from neglect. But if other Brius facilities are as understaffed as San Rafael Healthcare, the idea of removing employees does not necessarily sound like a good thing.

The spokesperson for Brius did not comment on the total number of staff members caring for patients at San Rafael Healthcare and other Brius facilities. Instead, the spokesperson emphasized “maintaining our high nurse-to-patient ratio is important to us.” The Brius spokesperson has not indicated how the nursing home chain plans to deal with its poor turnover rates and complaints about inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios.

In the meantime, if you have questions about a loved one’s safety in a California nursing home, do not hesitate to reach out to a San Diego nursing home neglect lawyer to discuss your case. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to find out more about how we can assist you.

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