Last week I visited the Millstream Commons Assisted living facility in Northfield. Over the years, I have visited several long term care facilities and nursing homes in my district. Meeting and talking with the administrators and staff in these facilities is always illuminating. It is also emotional and from a policy perspective, it is frustrating. As a state, we need to do more to support these workers and these facilities.
Two years ago, the Minnesota legislature passed the “5% campaign” which gave a 5% increase in state funding to our long term care facilities statewide. Last year, we passed another 5% increase to community based care facilities that support individuals with special needs. That was a start. We barely made a dent in addressing the long term fiscal health of these facilities.
Workers once again shared their stories of low pay while administrator spoke of the difficulty in attracting and retaining quality workers. One employee is holding 3 jobs to make ends meet for her family. Workers with years of experience talked about how little their pay has increased since they were hired over 2 decades ago. Workers are lost to grocery stores or restaurants that pay better, even at a starting wage. How does this profession attract new employees thinking about a career in health care?
We should be concerned. Many long term care facilities are losing money and turning clients away. As our parents and grandparents mature and the need for care increases, facilities in my district and across Minnesota struggle to meet the demands. The state’s funding mechanism is broken leading to inequities and a lack of adequate services across the state.
These employees are passionate about the work they do. They love working with the clients they serve. They are doing everything they can to provide the best quality of life for them. We need to focus on fixing the funding formula, increasing long term care worker’s wages, and ensuring adequate options for people and families across the state. We can and must do more.