Yale Law School Clinic releases report on pandemic-era nursing home conditions, upcoming potential strike

Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Yale Law School Clinic released a major report on nursing home conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic Monday, researched and drafted by Yale Law School students in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic on behalf of 1199NE.

Senators Saud Anwar and Jorge Cabrera listened to law students talk about their research. Union workers shared their experiences in healthcare during the pandemic.

“This is how we look at it. We’re abusing the residents because we cannot give them the type of care that they deserve,” said Tanya Beckford who is a Certified Nursing Assistant and 1199NE member.

RELATED: State makes offer to nursing home workers union days before strike, includes nearly $300-million package, hazard pay

“We are struggling. We are working so understaffed. We are so burnt out. We are so tired. And we just want the best for the residents,” Beckford added.

“I make a plea to the legislators of this state and to the governor help fix this system,” said SEIU 1199NE member Glenn Angus.

This comes after he announced Monday additional strike notices for six additional nursing homes would be sent out Monday.

That means thousands of workers from a total of over 39 nursing homes plan to go on strike this month.

Just over a week ago, the union announced over 4,000 nursing home employees from over 33 nursing homes across the state were set to strike Friday, May 14 if the state does not meet their demands, which include more funding and resources for treating patients safely amid a pandemic.

RELATED: State lawmakers trying to avoid nursing home workers strike set for May 14

“We have a moral obligation to increase safety, staffing, and wages and benefits for nursing home workers,” Speaker of the House Matt Ritter said. “Their heroic efforts during the pandemic saved lives – these are workers who ran directly into the crisis with little support. I am proud to stand with them and demand the state do better.”

The union and Yale say, “The report, titled ‘We Were Abandoned: How Connecticut Failed Nursing Home Workers and Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic,’ provides an in-depth examination of the reasons why thousands of workers are prepared to strike. Based on a comprehensive study of Department of Public Health documents and worker interviews, the report describes unsafe conditions, understaffed facilities, inadequate compensation, and lack of state oversight. It also lays out a set of policy recommendations for ensuring safe staffing, fair compensation, and quality patient care in Connecticut.”

The advocacy clinic, which interviewed workers and looked at publicly available inspection documents, said there are three major conclusions:

  1. There was not enough PPE or staffing.
  2. The state didn’t do enough to keep residents safe amid the pandemic.
  3. Staffing levels mattered.

Aaron Bryce Lee, a law student intern for WIRAC said Monday, “For 170 nursing home facilities, where nearly 3,400 residents died of COVID-19, there are no publicly available records of any fines imposed by the state for COVID-19 related violations…Nursing homes that reported staffing shortages had far more COVID-19 cases than COVID 19 beds.”

The report also highlights how working conditions in nursing homes relate to racial equity.

“This is a workforce that is overwhelmingly black and brown women. They have been stretched far beyond their breaking point,” said Rob Baril, president of 1199NE. “They want to be treated with the respect and dignity that all human beings deserve. That is why they are asking for livable wages and benefits and a Long Term Care Workers Bill of Rights.”

READ: Full report from Yale Law School

Harrington Court in Colchester is one of the 33 nursing homes where workers threatened to walk off the job on May 14.

The governor says negotiations are continuing. The state is offering $280 million to nursing homes to avoid a strike. The offer currently includes $149 million for 4.5% wage increases for nursing home workers, which would kick in over the next two fiscal years. It is not known at this time if the nurses union will accept the governor’s offer.

In the meantime, the union is sending out six more strike notices to nursing homes with more than 600 workers who say they will walk off the job come 6 a.m. May 28.

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