ALTAMONT, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The pandemic brought many existing issues with nursing homes to light and now many advocates are hoping the state will make some much need changes. Thursday, local members of 1199SEIU, the nation’s largest healthcare union, participated in a Day of Action at over two hundred nursing homes across New York State.

They’re calling on the State Legislature to pass nursing home reform that would improve transparency and accountability in this year’s budget.

Madison Castracani told NEWS10 she’s been working as a nursing aid at The Grand at Guilderland for about four years. She said sometimes she’s left to care for a wing of 42 residents all by herself. “It’s backbreaking,” Castracani said.

While nursing homes have been struggling with funding and staffing levels for years, Mindy Berman, a spokesperson for 1199SEIU, said the pandemic has exacerbated and exposed these issues.

“Not enough staff, not enough time for residents to have with their caregivers, sometimes supplies are weak and this is all related to the fact that nursing homeowners, not all, but many, have put their profits ahead of quality care,” said Berman.

So as the legislature works to finalize its budget, union members are asking the state to prioritize nursing home reform. Union members said while some nursing homeowners will say they are underfunded, they’re really just hiding their profits.

“They own laundering companies so when the nursing home pays laundering company the owners are still making a profit because they own the laundering company,” said Maureen Tomlinson, Vice President of 1199 SEIU of the Capital Region.

Union members said the State Assembly passed a series of bills including one that they believe would partially address that issue. It would require nursing home operators to invest a minimum of seventy percent of the money they get from the state on resident care, including 40% on staffing.

The Assembly also passed a bill that would prevent owners with poor track records from purchasing additional nursing homes.

Union members said they’re satisfied with many of the measures that have passed in the assembly, but now they want to see the Senate pass similar legislation and for the governor to actually sign them into law and finalize these reforms.

“We feel good about it, but it ain’t over until it’s over,” said Berman.

We’ve reached out to some of the Senators supporting these bills to see where they stand in their voting process, but have not yet heard back.

Stephen Hanse, President and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living (NYSHFA/NYSCAL), said he does not think any of the bills introduced truly address the staffing crisis and the years of slashing Medicaid funding.

“The average cost of providing 24-hour nursing home care in New York is $266 per resident per day, but the State only pays an average of $211 per resident per day – or $8.79 per hour!
This $55 Medicaid shortfall is the largest in the Nation and directly impacts a nursing home’s ability to retain workers when hospitals can always pay nurses more,” said Hanse.