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"In Dire Straits:" WA Nursing-Home Workers Call for Funding

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Sherylon Hughes, a certified nurse's aide at a Bellingham nursing home, says the facility where she works is just one in the state in "dire straits." (SEIU Local 775)
Sherylon Hughes, a certified nurse's aide at a Bellingham nursing home, says the facility where she works is just one in the state in "dire straits." (SEIU Local 775)
February 8, 2021

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Nursing-home workers are urging lawmakers in Olympia not to make funding cuts to their facilities.

Funding for Washington state nursing homes has fallen short by more than $100 million, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services. Inside nursing homes, the lack of funds is apparent to workers.

Sherylon Hughes, a certified nurse's aide at a facility in Bellingham and an executive board member of Service Employees International Union Local 775, said they need more cash, not less.

"My employers and the other operators of these homes are in dire straits right now," Hughes asserted. "I fear that my building may close. I worry about other buildings closing, and I feel that's what's on the horizon if we don't get some better funding in Washington state."

Because of the pandemic, state lawmakers have asked the Department of Social and Health Services to consider what cuts might look like, including more than $200 million dollars from the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration.

Nursing homes have been an epicenter for the coronavirus.

Hughes contended cuts would be disastrous for workers and nursing-home residents.

She noted people who live there are already struggling without social activities and family visits. Some are succumbing to what's known as "failure to thrive," refusing to eat or take medication, because they feel hopeless.

"I'm in communication with a lot of different people, caregivers and therapists in other facilities, and they're seeing the same thing," Hughes observed. "We're all trying our best, but it's possible for the loneliness to get to you."

Hughes believes her facility has been spared the worst of COVID-19, in part because workers are unionized and have made their voices heard.

Still, many quit at the start of the pandemic rather than risk getting the virus or spreading it to their families.

She described "a sense of impending doom" for the past year.

"Every day, you're wondering, are you going to show up [and] are you going to be short-staffed because somebody is sick?" Hughes explained. "Are you going to get the news that there's an outbreak in your facility? So, you know, trying to get used to that high level of stress has been difficult."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA