For many, the understaffing crisis in Michigan nursing homes is an open secret. Union representatives have stated that the state staffing rates are “one of the lowest in the country” according to the Michigan Radio. Last Tuesday, however, in the “motor city” of Detroit, nursing home employees, unions, and lawmakers gathered to bring attention to the state’s understaffing crisis in its nursing homes.
Things began with the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU’s) event that collected nursing home workers from across the Midwest in Detroit. The event also attracted several state lawmakers and the Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel, leader of the Michigan Nursing Home Abuse Task Force. Nessel is currently on a fact-finding mission across the state to gather data about nursing homes and hear potential solutions to, among other issues, the understaffing crisis.
At the SEIU’s event, nursing home workers shared stories about how Michigan’s nursing home understaffing crisis takes a toll on them by seriously inhibiting their ability to care for nursing home residents consistently and dutifully. One worker shared that she often struggles to give residents water more than once in her eight-hour shift. She also described only being able to change each resident’s bedpan once or twice every eight hours.
Another vocal protestor, Cheryl Wideman, works as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the Fairlane Senior Care and Rehab Center in Detroit. According to her account, the facility is nearly always understaffed, except when administrators know a state inspector is coming to review staffing levels.
This sentiment was echoed by Andrea Acevedo, president of the largest nursing home workers union in the state: SEIU Healthcare Michigan. She attributes the understaffing crisis in Michigan’s nursing homes to the legally required staffing ratios. Under Michigan law, there must be enough staff on hand to give just two hours of direct patient care per day. Ms. Acevedo and her union maintain that the basic minimum should be twice that for proper nursing home care, which would mandate more staff to be on hand.
Attorney General Nessel also weighed in on the understaffing crisis, calling the “vast majority” nursing home employees “absolutely overworked and absolutely underpaid.” AG Nessel also went on to say that based on her listening tour with the Task Force this summer, she plans to make it a priority in her office to be “vigorously . . . pursuing those who fail to provide care because they don’t properly staff their facilities.”
For more information about the dangers of neglect, intentional or circumstantial, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Neglect Page.