The Aug. 17 Globe ran an article about the recent Nursing Home Listening Session in Slayton. The article reported a DHS (Department of Human Services) representative making the following statement: “Part of the reason for that [a workforce shortage] may be low wages. Statewide, administrative costs such as CEO salaries have gone up 26%, but nurses, custodial staff and cafeteria workers — who are doing the real work in long-term care facilities— have not seen an increase in wages.”
This statement from DHS is, at best, inaccurate. Actually, there have been significant investments in workforce hourly wages and benefits since 2015.
Long Term Care Association data shows that from 2015-18 (the most current data available), there have been dramatic increases in employee wages. For southwest Minnesota alone, licensed practical nurses have seen an increase of over 20%, nursing assistants have seen increases of over 27%, food service and dietary aids have seen an increase of over 21% and housekeeping and laundry have seen an increase of 18%. This increase is in weighted average hourly wages and does include the expansion and improvement of health insurance to employees, and the lowering of their insurance co-pays and deductibles.
For some perspective, prior to passage of the Value Based Reimbursement (VBR) system for nursing homes, the legislatively set rates were underfunding providers $35.42 per patient day compared to allowable costs. Following implementation of VBR, the gap has shrunk to a projected deficit of $6.40 per patient day. The legislature and DHS had allocated only one increase of 5% in nursing home funding between 2009 and 2014. Most providers are still attempting to recover from those years.
If we are going to listen to communities and examine the state’s role in providing services for the elderly, we all need to know our history and make sure we all use both accurate and factual data.