Nursing home workers were called heroes during the pandemic, but are now being asked to meet what the unions and the industry are calling an impossible deadline.
“I worked through the whole pandemic as a nurse and at the end we suffer? I even got COVID for three weeks and almost died I was so sick and I’m just here trying to get a number and this is the thanks we get,” Nemoy Lewis of Hartford said.
We met Lewis outside of Troop H struggling to get a determination number from her employer to get fingerprinted.
“I can’t lose employment because I have to pay for school and, you know, regular events,” Lewis said.
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“Firing hundreds and potentially thousands of workers at this point in time would have a devastating impact on long-term care facilities,” Rob Baril, president of SEIU District 1199, said.
Baril, whose union threatened to strike earlier this year over wages and benefits, said accommodating thousands of people over the next week won’t keep enough workers on the job.
“There is a staffing shortage in nursing homes that actually is pre-pandemic,” Baril said.
“At this point in time, we’re not seeing the level of flexibility from the state that is necessary," he continued.
The Department of Public Health worked with state police to expand the number of appointments to accommodate workers before the July 20 deadline. But critics say it’s asking too much to soon.
“A very low wage work force that’s been traumatized during the past year and a half in terms of the conditions that they’ve encountered in nursing homes,” Baril said.
Acting Department of Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford said “this law is designed to protect nursing home residents, others who receive long-term care services, and the staff who provide their care from people with histories of certain violent crimes and other disqualifying offenses.”
“There will be thousands of nursing home workers who have already undergone background checks at their point of hire who will lose their jobs on July 20,” Baril said.
“I work full-time and part-time so this is the only day I have,” Lewis added.