Healthcare Workers Debate Nursing Home Legislation at Public Hearing

Lawmakers and healthcare workers gathered in Hartford for a public hearing regarding new legislation that some say would address the needs of nursing home caregivers and residents.

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“When I walked in today and I saw all the support, it felt so good that someone else is seeing what we’ve been seeing,” said Paulette Belin, certified nursing assistant for over 40 years.

Throughout her career, Belin has been intent on providing the best care to those in need.

“Every one of us has a sick pillow, and you should hope that somebody will make it soft for you,” she said.

In recent years, she said her profession has experienced a lack of support and it’s the nursing home residents suffering the consequence.

“I don’t get care right away in the morning. I have to wait for a long time to either get out of bed, to get into the bathroom, to get a shower,” said Martha Leland, resident at Touchpoints at Manchester.

“The nurses and aids that are there right now at the care center, they’re still doing a tremendous job, it’s just that they’re understaffed and they’re underpaid,” said Robert Willis, resident at Westside Care Center.

It’s those sorts of issues that brought lawmakers and many others to Hartford on Thursday, advocating for new legislation they say helps make the most of the state’s $1.12 billion budget.

“We spend a lot of money, and we’re not asking for more money, but we are asking for increased transparency,” said State Sen. Matt Lesser (D-Middletown). He's also the Senate chair of the Human Services Committee.

Seven bills in total were discussed at the public hearing, with the goal of addressing staffing issues, allocating transportation funds for family visits and supporting stronger protections for people in long-term care.

One bill would also involve the Office of the Attorney General, to ensure that taxpayer funds are appropriately used.

“It’ll allow our office a new way to hold nursing home owners accountable for their pocketbooks, and frankly create additional incentives for long-term care facilities to fulfill their obligations to Connecticut’s most vulnerable,” said Cara Passaro, Office of the Attorney General chief of staff.

Lara Alatise, owner and administrator of Windsor Health and Rehabilitation Center, said she shares the passion for providing adequate care, but testified against the proposal to require increased staffing at this time.

She said a shortage of workers makes it unrealistic for her care center to meet the increased staff-to-patient ratio requirement as proposed in the bill.

“What we’re asking is for the legislature to just reconsider pushing forward for a little while when we can adequately have enough work forces to pull from and staff the building because we do realize that the more hands we have for those patients the better the care, but we just don’t have it,” Alatise said.

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