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Florida Caregivers Launch “Every Minute Counts” Campaign to Protect Nursing Home Residents

In response to new state legislation that cuts safe staffing levels and bedside care in Florida nursing homes by 18 minutes per resident per day, 1199SEIU Florida caregivers have launched the “Every Minute Counts” campaign to protect nursing home residents from potentially life threatening health risks. Nearly three-hundred caregivers ratified the campaign at an 1199SEIU Florida Joint Delegate’s Assembly in St. Petersburg, FL in early September.

Following a unanimous ratification vote to launch the campaign, a chant of “Every Minute Counts!” resounded throughout a packed room of nearly 300 delegates at the assembly. As the chant grew louder, a sea of waving campaign rally signs filled the room with images of a large stopwatch signifying every minute of bedside care that could mean life or death to a family’s loved one.

Caregivers took turns speaking about what a minute of bedside care means to their residents, and called on the Florida Legislature to reverse cuts that reduced caregivers’ time at the bedside of each resident.

“A minute to me, being a worker with Alzheimer’s and dementia [residents], means redirecting that resident to be able to identify the voice on the telephone as a loved one, or to redirect that resident to know that the person standing next to them or in front of them is their son or their daughter,” said Pearl Gooden, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Accentia Health and Rehabilitation Center of Tampa. “It only takes a minute for recognition to come back from dementia.”

Because Florida’s legislature passed the reduction of staffing levels behind closed doors just hours before the 2011 session ended, 1199SEIU caregivers are doing everything they can to let the public and elected officials know that every minute counts when it comes to protecting our loved ones.

“A minute to me is priceless. A minute to me is listening to the sound of the alarms when a resident gets up to prevent them from falling,” said Doreen Holm, a CNA at Avante of Lake Worth nursing home. “A minute to me is to walk with a resident so that a resident will be able to improve their walking…so a minute to me really goes a far way.”

As a result of the legislature’s cuts to bedside care, many nursing homes have already cut staffing to the new state minimum. Additionally, many caregivers’ hours have been reduced, or even worse, cut altogether. At a time when Florida’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average, the reduction of staffing not only potentially harms residents, but, Florida’s economy as well.

Already, 1199SEIU members have lobbied over 40 legislators in person this summer, and more than 100 staffing monitoring forms have been completed by caregivers facing short staffing problems in their nursing homes. The information that caregivers are collecting will be highlighted when they lobby lawmakers and talk to the press about the impacts of staffing cuts on nursing home residents and healthcare workers.

Caregivers have also collected over 1,000 community pledge cards in just two months from concerned Floridians ready to join the campaign. They expect to collect thousands more as the campaign moves forward.

Before the ratification vote, Service Employees International President Mary Kay Henry joined the delegates and praised their commitment to protecting the loved ones of countless families, telling the delegates “there are every day stories that you know, as well as I do, about how every minute counts, and I just want to applaud this organization’s desire to set the standard for the country.”

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East President George Gresham was also in attendance and encouraged the delegates to continue the outstanding work they do caring for residents and speaking out on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.

“I want to thank you all for being here. For taking on the task of leadership,” said Gresham.

In the coming weeks, 1199SEIU Florida caregivers will be launching a campaign website where Floridians can view and download an “Every Minute Counts Quality Care Toolkit” that provides families with the information they need to protect their loved ones in a nursing home.

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