Advocacy group claims an ’emergency’ shortage of home health workers

Nov 23, 2021, 6:04 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2021, 6:19 pm
GRIMSBY, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: District nurse Rebecca McKenzie (R), wearing personal protective equipm...
GRIMSBY, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: District nurse Rebecca McKenzie (R), wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) changes the dressings on the legs of 86-year-old Margaret Ashton (L) to treat her leg ulcers during a home visit on June 9, 2020 in Grimsby, northeast England. (Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas - Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas - Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — One patients’ rights group says Utah is seeing an emergency shortage of home health care workers, and they want the state government to stop the labor shortage from getting worse.

Disabled Rights Action Committee Board Member Ron Faerber has a wife with MS and a daughter with serious special needs, so he appreciates any time he can get with a home health care worker.  Even if someone can only assist him for an hour a day, it’s a major load off his shoulders.

He said, “Just a little bit of help goes a long way.”

Faerber says home health care workers already had a heavy workload treating seven to eight patients every day, especially when you add all the travel time they have to do in order to see their clients.  However, these workers are leaving the industry in droves.

“Workers that are still employed have to pick up the slack for that other worker.” Faerber said.  “Some of these people are taking on 10-15 clients, and they’re going to burn out.”

Committee officials say this burnout is sparking a frightening decline in the kind of care available for people in need.  They say fewer workers are available to give patients the medications, personal hygiene and meals they need.  Faerber says some patients may not even be able to get out of bed that day. 

He says the heavy stress levels workers face is just one problem.  The other problem… the pay just isn’t that good.  According to Faerber, some companies are still paying as little as $9 an hour.

“With inflation, they’re just like, ‘Hey, I can’t even live on the amount of money that they’re paying,” Faerber said.

Their group is calling on the state to step in, adding more funding in Medicaid reimbursements to improve salaries for all home health care aides, adding that salaries haven’t kept up with the rising cost of living.

He said, “We’re asking the state and Medicare.  These folks need to up their reimbursement rates to be more competitive.”

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