Monday, January 23, 2006

Nursing Homes: When the worker's safe, the resident's safe

Nursing homes aren't coal mines, steel mills or construction sites,
True, nursing home workers don't die on the job, not like cops or firefighters or construction workers. But they get hurt more than almost anyone - in 2004, one in 10 suffered an injury that was reported to federal authorities.

And unlike other high-injury jobs in factories and warehouses, when nursing-home workers get hurt, it costs you money, because it costs nursing homes money, and most of New York's $11 billion nursing-home industry is paid for by taxpayers through Medicaid and Medicare.

And unlike in many other workplaces, nursing home workers are responsible for other people. Fragile people.

"When the worker's safe, the resident's safe," says Wayne Young, a safety officer with the Service Employees International Union Local 1199. "But when the workers are unsafe, it's only a matter of time before a resident gets injured."
More mechanical lifts and more training help, but the main problem is understaffing, which causes nursing home worker to rush.

But it pays to fix things -- both for workers, patients, and the bottom line:
With all that nursing homes spend on insurance, overtime and turnover, it would be cheaper to invest in safety, said Janet Foley, safety director for the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents workers in many public nursing homes. In places that have done so, workers are healthier and happier. Turnover goes down. And there might even be money left over to hire some more aides.

"This," Foley said, "is a no-brainer."