Kansas Advocates for Better Care: Who will stand up for Kansans in long-term care facilities? (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times is offering some space for area organizations and organizers to express their views, provide updates and attempt to reach other folks who might share their mission. This post is contributed content (i.e., not produced by the Times staff). See more in our Community Voices section, or see how to submit your own piece.

Understaffing and poorly trained staff leave some of our fellow Kansans without proper care

COVID-19 has already killed far too many of our older Kansans in long-term care facilities. We must not forget them or the suffering their passing has caused their families and friends. 

Despite this horrific loss of our fellow Kansans, very little has been done to improve the care of those still living in our nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The problems exposed by the pandemic have been years in the making. Facilities were understaffed before COVID hit. Now the problem is a brewing crisis. Because of the high risks and low pay, facilities are having difficulty attracting and keeping well-qualified staff and many don’t have enough to keep their residents safe, fed, and clean.

COVID has exposed one other truth. To protect their bottom lines, long-term care facilities cut staff just when they needed them the most. The residents are still there with less care while the owners of the facilities guard their bottom lines. Even as the industry has received more federal and state government funding, they argue they cannot afford to sustain those salaries over the long term. So, the understaffing crisis goes on.

One attempt at trying to address the chronic understaffing only worsens the issue. By regulation, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) was required to take up to 90 hours of classroom and on-the-job training before certification. The pandemic emergency slashed the number of hours of training to eight, required no actual clinical training and created the positions for “temporary nurse aides.” Although this program ended when the state emergency orders ended, the big players in the industry want to bring them back permanently. Poorly trained and underpaid staff does not fix the understaffing issue.

Additionally in Kansas, residents can be evicted from an assisted-care long-term care facility and cannot appeal the eviction. These include assisted living, residential health care and home plus facilities. House Bill 2004 would change that. It sits in the House Children and Seniors Committee when the 2022 Kansas Legislative session begins in January.

At KABC, we believe that regardless of age, all Kansans should be properly protected and given high quality care. As an example, we support the fact that in Kansas, workers in childcare facilities cannot be left alone with children if they have not passed both a background check and fingerprint check. In our assisted living facilities, a caregiver can work for 60 full days without a background check, and that was only recently lowered from 120 days.

If laws for Kansas children were used for elder care, it would demonstrate that we value life at all ages. The chronic issues facing long-term care residents in Kansas deserve public attention.

— Kansas Advocates for Better Care is a Lawrence-based nonprofit organization advocating for quality long-term care for residents of licensed adult care homes. Find more information on their website at this link and follow them on Facebook for updates. 

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