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    LA County nursing home workers kick off protests over low staffing
    • July 7, 2023

    Workers from several Los Angeles County nursing homes kicked off the first of a series of protests Thursday, July 6, claiming severe understaffing and high turnover are undermining patient care.

    Employees at the facilities — owned by Brius Healthcare and operated by Rockport Healthcare Services — are represented by SEIU Local 2015.

    They plan to hold eight pickets over the course of three weeks in July, including Thursday’s protest at Centinela Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre West in Inglewood. Additional rallies are planned at nursing homes in Los Angeles, Vernon, Claremont, Maywood, Pomona, Norwalk and Montrose.

    Brius currently operates 77 nursing homes statewide. SEIU Local 2015 represents about 4,000 workers at 28 of the facilities, including 16 in Los Angeles County. The LA County labor contracts have expired — some last year and others as recently as February.

    Representatives with Brius and Rockport could not be reached Thursday.

    Carmen Roberts, the union’s executive director, said employees at the nursing homes should be caring for six to seven patients each but are sometimes saddled with 15 or more.

    “With that kind of staffing … you can’t even wash their face,” she said.

    Danielle Williams, a certified nursing assistant at the Inglewood facility, said she has experienced the staffing shortage firsthand.

    “Certain patients are a fall risk, but they’ll try to get up,” the 36-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “If their assigned nurse is with someone else and they’re walking around, there might not be a nurse on the floor who can keep an eye on them.”

    Williams said it also takes a toll on employees.

    “It wears you out,” she said. “It puts a strain on your back and you’re not able to take the breaks you need.”

    Employees say chronic understaffing has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in “alarming turnover rates among underpaid and under-protected care workers.”

    That pattern has gone on for years, workers say, fueling a string of government sanctions and exposing Brius to a series of lawsuits, including several actions filed by the California attorney general.

    An August 2021 civil lawsuit filed in Shasta County’s Superior Court of California alleges Brius owner Shlomo Rechnitz and several other individuals and entities were responsible for the pandemic-related deaths of some 24 elderly and dependent residents at Windsor Redding Care Center.

    The complaint claims several employees at the facility were forced to report to work, despite having symptoms of COVID-19. A large outbreak followed, causing more than 60 patients to contact the virus with about 24 dying, the action said.

    Another March 2020 lawsuit claims employee Lidice Diaz was wrongfully terminated as director of business development at Park Avenue Healthcare & Wellness Center in Pomona for refusing to participate in the alleged “patient dumping” of Medi-Cal residents.

    The lawsuit claims the company benefited by transferring low-reimbursed Medi-Cal patients out of the facility and replacing them with Medicare beneficiaries who were commercially insured.

    The workers are also seeking higher wages and improved benefits.

    Certified nursing assistants at the nursing homes average $19 an hour, the union said, while non-nursing personnel earn minimum wage or slightly more.

    They’re seeking a 5% cost-of-living raise over the life of their three-year contract, with additional pay increases based on seniority. They also want healthcare coverage that’s more affordable. Only 10% of the union members participate in the current plan because it’s so costly, union officials said.

    Employees also say they’re only getting three sick days a year, which creates a risk for workers and their patients.

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    ​ Orange County Register