Press Release: Yakima Caregivers Demand Funding for Nursing Homes as COVID-19 Cases Climb

“Nursing home workers are essential, frontline healthcare workers… That’s why we’re out here today – to demand that the State and Federal government do better to protect us and to provide the resources we need to keep ourselves and our residents safe.” – Julie Ortiz, Yakima Nursing Home

YAKIMA, WA – Nursing home workers in Yakima – a city with less than four percent of Washington state’s population but almost 15 percent of its COVID-19 cases – are protesting downtown today as part of a national movement to demand funding for long-term care facilities like the ones hit hardest by the pandemic.

Nursing home workers are the frontlines of healthcare in our country, and they are putting their health at risk to fulfill a critical need during this crisis. Their jobs are getting harder, not easier. But nursing homes and their workers are not getting the funding or equipment they need to stay safe or the pay they deserve as essential workers. And while nursing home workers desperately need more resources to take care of their residents safely, the State’s Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) is now proposing a $60 million cut to nursing home funding.

One in three COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes, according to recent estimates, and yet the caregivers in these homes must continue working without hazard pay or personal protective equipment (PPE). This lack of both federal and state funding directly puts the lives of working people, our families, and our communities at greater risk.

“Nursing home workers are essential, frontline healthcare workers,” said Julie Ortiz, a nursing home worker in Yakima. “We’ve kept some of our state’s most vulnerable out of overwhelmed hospitals while putting our own health on the line. Nursing home workers deserve better. That’s why we’re out here today – to demand that the State and Federal government do better to protect us and to provide the resources we need to keep ourselves and our residents safe.”

As of May 13, 279 long-term care facilities in Washington state had known cases of COVID-19. These facilities had a total of 2,894 cases among residents and staff, resulting in 507 deaths. This means residents and workers in long-term care facilities made up one in five (17%) of all cases in the state and more than half of all COVID-19-related deaths.

SEIU 775 President Sterling Harders says, “Caregivers, who are primarily women – and often Black women, women of color, and immigrants – have always been critically undervalued as healthcare workers and are now disproportionately being affected by COVID-19. Nursing home staff are being called essential workers by the same elected officials who are withholding vital funding for the equipment and pay they need to do their jobs safely.”

Nursing home work is essential. Nursing home workers deserve hazard pay. Nursing homes need funding.

 

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