NH First State to Offer COVID Stipend to Long-term Care Workers
Friday, April 17, 2020
CONCORD, N.H. - Gov. Chris Sununu is giving Medicaid-funded long-term care workers at nursing homes and in home care a $300 weekly pay boost during the COVID-19 crisis - reportedly the first stipend of its kind in the country.
Sununu is also increasing testing for the more than six thousand workers at long-term care facilities in Rockingham and Hillsborough counties, areas with the most outbreaks. It's all in response to staffing shortages and an immediate need, since about half the state's 30-plus deaths from COVID-19 have been in long-term care facilities.
But Susan Buxton, the New Hampshire State Long-term Care Ombudsman, notes that overall, the Granite State is preventing the new coronavirus from spreading.
"We've been fortunate that, as a state, we have taken bold action early," says Buxton. "We had that opportunity and we took it. We're not hearing of widespread infections."
She says she's also not hearing of outbreaks at the majority of nursing homes.
New Hampshire health officials also claim the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 has been stable for the past week or so, which might indicate an early peak for the virus in New Hampshire.
AARP had urged the governor to provide more support to long-term care workers and is pleased with the announcement.
For people with loved ones in long-term care, Doug McNutt - advocacy director with AARP New Hampshire - recommends asking the staff a number of questions. He includes how they plan to keep family members connected virtually, and how they intend to communicate important information on a regular basis.
"Is the nursing home currently at full staffing levels for nurses' aides and other workers?" asks McNutt. "What is the plan to meet the needs of the nursing home residents for bathing, feeding, medication management and things of that nature if there are staffing shortages? And we know that there are issues."
AARP also suggests asking about nursing homes' levels of personal protective equipment and their plans to prevent further infections.
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