Nursing home workers picketed in front of Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Center and Niagara Falls-based Schoellkopf Health Center on Thursday, urging better quality care for the residents.

Similar pickets unfolded outside Safire of the Northtowns and Weinberg Campus in Erie County, and about 16 other facilities across New York state. They were all organized by 1999SEIU, the healthcare workers union.

Allison Krause, 1199SEIU communications coordinator for upstate New York, said the picketers took action to “tell legislators in Albany that it is time for reform in the nursing home industry.”

“We chose Newfane Rehab as one of the sites for this action because the owners here have shown us time and time again that they do not prioritize workers and quality care,” she said.

The picket lines were not a strike action, Krause said, they were an "appropriate action" to display need for, among other things, better staffing at residential nursing facilities.

“Not having enough time with our residents is definitely a huge issue for us, but the reform package we would like to see would address much more than that,” Krause said. “These reforms would ensure that nursing home owners use taxpayer money in the way that it is intended, on quality resident care and workers.”

Nursing facilities in Niagara, Erie, Monroe, Dutchess, Jefferson, Nassau, Onondaga, Oneida, Schenectady and Suffolk counties and New York City were targeted. According to Krause, some of them have low average hours of care per resident, use a high number of related parties to hide profits, or otherwise rank poorly in care quality.

Krause accused nursing home operators of hiding profits as a part of a scheme to “make millions at the expense of residents and healthcare workers” while at the same time denying 1199SEIU members higher wages.

“We believe if more of the money a nursing home receives is earmarked for quality care, which includes not only having enough staff, but having a continuity of care for residents that requires less turnover, and less of the money is taken to line the pockets of the wealthy nursing home owners, then improved wages should be easy to achieve,” Krause said.

Problems in nursing facilities have been visible for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought them into sharp focus, according to Krause.

“Newfane Rehab, as an example, has consistently refused to invest in quality care and workers by refusing to pay COVID-19 crisis pay, changing the working conditions in the facility without communicating with workers, and delaying to settle a fair contract with the workers here,” she said. “This practice of putting profit before people is an issue everywhere in the state and it's time for the government to step in and enact the reforms we are advocating for them to address these issues.”

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