Don't short change Home Care nurses another year
To the Editor:
Several years ago, I wrote to this paper to explain how Rhode Island Home Care Agencies have gotten the short end of the stick for many years. In 2016 and 2017, after many years of fighting, agencies received pass-thru raises for the CNAs that do work for the RI Medicaid program. For that, Governor Raimondo deserves credit and I give it to her. Governor Chafee had done nothing for home care in the four years he was governor. Please don’t ever let him back into office.
However, there are areas of home care that involve other specialties that require skills other than CNA training. Examples include Pediatric nurses, Home Health nurses, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, etc. These specialties are vitally important to the Medicaid home care industry, yet the State of Rhode Island has done nothing – and I mean nothing – to assist agencies in their ability to hire this staff.
In 2002, the average wage for an RN in Rhode Island was about $24.23 per hour. The reimbursement rate to an Agency was $33.92 per hour.
In 2018, 16 years later, the average wage for an RN in Rhode Island is $36.15 yet the reimbursement rate for Home Care Agencies is $34.68.
Sixteen years later, the reimbursement rate has gone up 74 cents an hour, yet the average wage has gone up $11.92 per hour.
Governor Raimondo wants Rhode Islanders to have competitive wages as compared to Massachusetts and Connecticut, and has spent $45 million of your tax dollars to construct a “Nursing Center” for Brown University, Rhode Island College and URI in downtown Providence, who then train nurses so they can graduate and go get jobs in our neighboring states. With the closure of Memorial Hospital recently, the nurses that could find jobs working in RI that were at least equal to what they were making at Memorial would have taken those jobs or they moved on to Massachusetts or Connecticut. I do not know of any nurses that decided that low paying home care jobs were just what they were looking for.
It would take many millions of state and federal tax dollars for the state to provide a reimbursement rate equal to Massachusetts and Connecticut (their higher rates have already been in place for years). The budget for EOHHS last year was $3.7 Billion dollars. Agency owners have already offered ways that would provide the state funds that would allow them to fund proper reimbursement rates for home care nurses and other professionals.
Instead, by not providing proper reimbursement rates, parents of pediatric patients will find themselves without the care that they need to let them go to work, or pediatric patients without nursing coverage may leave the parents without the assessment skills of a trained nurse, causing them to unnecessarily bring the children into the ER at Hasbro, or lead to very expensive stays in the hospital. The State doesn’t seem to mind the higher costs, I guess.
Apparently, the monies are better spent on these expensive hospital stays as compared to having a nurse care for a child at home. It is quite obvious that the state knows better than the 45 home care agency owners and executive directors that have been doing this type of work for years. For me, it has been 21 years.
No industry should have to go 16 years without any increase in reimbursement that will help hire, train and retain skilled staff to care for the most vulnerable people in the state. I wonder who the governor or members of the General Assembly look to when their loved ones need care in their home? I assume it is one of the 45 agencies in the state that are willing to provide the care for their loved ones. Doesn’t it just make sense that they would want those skilled professionals coming into their home to have the most up-to-date training and equipment, and be properly compensated for their skills? Well, once again the governor has said that it is not important enough for them to be paid what their counterparts in nursing homes, hospitals and nearby states make. I just don’t get it. In a field where women dominate the workforce, the governor seems to want to hold them back financially.
Once again, as I have done in the past for many years, I am calling on the Speaker of the House and the Senate president to work with the governor so that Home Care nurses in Rhode Island do not go into their 17th year without an increase in pay by way of an increase in reimbursement to home care agencies. Do not let this predominantly female industry go another year without a raise – unless of course that is what you are trying to do. Please make sure these women (and men) are properly compensated.
Vincent P. Ward,
Home Care Services of R.I., Inc.