State reviewing nursing home strike contingency plans

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State health officials have begun their own preparations in advance of threatened strikes planned for May 1 at 20 Connecticut nursing homes.

The Department of Public Health announced Tuesday it has begun reviewing the targeted facilities’ contingency care plans, as well as the credentials of potential replacement workers.

The department also released the first estimate of the number of patients served at the homes facing a potential work stoppage, projecting nearly 3,000 residents could be affected.

“We at the Department of Public Health are hoping that both labor and management at these nursing homes can come to agreement so a strike can be avoided, but if a strike occurs, we will be ready to do our duty in accordance with state and federal law,” Public Health Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell wrote in a statement. “We want to reassure families of patients who might be impacted that we will be vigilant and do what is necessary to make sure your loved ones are receiving proper care for the duration of this labor action.”

Coleman-Mitchell added the department also has prepared a pool of facility inspectors who would be ready to perform health and safety reviews at any time deemed necessary if and when a strike occurs.

Members of the public with questions or concerns about the department’s strike-monitoring program may call its Facility Licensing Division at (860) 509-7400 or may email questions to DPH.strike.info@ct.gov

The state’s largest health care workers’ union, New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 SEIU, held strike authorization votes late last week and announced the May 1 target date on Monday.

The union says about 4,000 of its members spread across 43 nursing homes have been working for nearly two years under expired contracts. And the 2,500 members who authorized strikes at 20 homes are a part of this larger group.

District 1199 is calling for all employees — both union and non-union — at all of Connecticut’s 220 nursing homes, to receive 4 percent raises in each of the next two fiscal years.

Union leaders have said the strike could be averted if significant progress is made in contract talks with nursing homes.

But the industry, which relies heavily on Medicaid funding, has its own fiscal challenges.

While state legislature approved a 2 percent increase in Medicaid funding for nursing homes this fiscal year, and a 3 percent increase in 2016, the industry has gone several years over the past decade with no inflationary adjustment.

And Gov. Ned Lamont has recommended no additional funds for either of the next two fiscal years as Connecticut tries to close major, projected budget deficits.

Federal and state Medicaid funds cover the cost of roughly 70 percent of nursing home care in the state.

According to the Department of Public Health, the 20 nursing homes facing potential strikes on May 1 are:

  • Advanced Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Haven
  • Autumn Lake Healthcare at Bucks Hill in Waterbury
  • Autumn Lake Healthcare at Cromwell
  • Autumn Lake Healthcare at New Britain
  • Autumn Lake Healthcare at Norwalk
  • Bloomfield Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation
  • Chelsea Place Care Center, LLC in Hartford
  • Fresh River Healthcare in East Windsor
  • Maple View Health & Rehabilitation Center in Rocky Hill
  • Orange Health Care Center
  • Silver Springs Care Center in Meriden
  • Three Rivers in Norwich
  • Touchpoints at Bloomfield
  • Touchpoints at Chestnut in East Windsor
  • Touchpoints at Farmington
  • Touchpoints at Manchester
  • Trinity Hill Care Center in Hartford
  • West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center
  • Westside Care Center in Manchester
  • Windsor Health and Rehabilitation Center

Keith M. Phaneuf is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2019 © The Connecticut Mirror.

kphaneuf@ctmirror.org

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