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News ::
Nursing home caregivers, health care advocates celebrate passage of new "Health (english)
20 Nov 2003
Votes by House and Senate override Governor’s veto to pass law limiting management interference when caregivers seek a voice at work. Measure will save public health care dollars and improve care at nursing homes.
BOSTON – The state legislature voted last night to override Gov. Romney’s veto of a bill prohibiting nursing homes from spending public money to frustrate caregivers seeking a voice at work.

"This legislation helps ensure a quality home for nursing home residents and a quality workplace for caregivers by assuring that public money is spent on health care and not on lobbying activity or other non-health care-related spending," said State Representative Peter Koutoujian (D-Waltham), the House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care. "I am glad my legislative colleagues recognize the importance of this issue."

Known as the "Health Care Only" bill, it allows any person to trigger a state investigation by alleging that public health care monies are being spent by a nursing home in violation of the law. If abuse is uncovered, misused monies would have to be returned to the state. Almost all nursing home operating expenses are reimbursed by the state from public tax dollars.

Facing oppressive interference by managers when they attempt to form unions, caregivers at nursing homes have sought the measure for several years. Many nursing home workers testified in support of the bill at statehouse hearings.

"Management interference really frustrated us when we united for a voice at work," said Joe Marseille, a 15-year CNA at the West Park (formerly Star of David) nursing home in West Roxbury where workers recently organized a union. "It distracted everyone from caring for the residents and wasted a lot of money. I hope this law will make it easier for other caregivers to join with us for long overdue improvements in our nursing homes."

Employer interference not only results in the misuse of public funds meant to provide health care but also deprives nursing home residents of the quality of care they deserve.

"By reducing the likelihood of divisive battles over unionization, this bill will help workers and health care institutions focus on the positive ways in which they can both support the needs of their patients," said Health Care for All deputy director Marcia Hams.

SEIU Local 2020 documented the abuse of public funds intended for health care when workers tried to unite at the Marian Manor nursing home in South Boston. Seeing a pattern of huge expenditures of public dollars by nursing homes to prevent workers from organizing, Local 2020 members made passage of this measure a top priority at their statewide convention in 2001 and again in 2002.

The Marian Manor report is available from Rand Wilson at (617) 989-8039 or rwilson (at) seiu2020.org.

The Health Care Only law prohibits nursing homes or other health facilities that receive state Medicaid Long Term Care and Health Care Quality Improvement funds from using that money to "assist, promote, deter, or discourage" union organizing and some other non-care related activities.

The legislation passed the Senate by a 36 to 3 vote and the House of Representatives by 136 to 23.

"In this time of fiscal crisis for many nursing homes, we must take steps to ensure that public health care dollars are used for their intended purpose: providing quality care," said Celia Wcislo, president of SEIU Local 2020. "Taxpayers deserve it. Workers deserve it. And, most importantly, the residents deserve it."

# # #
See also:
www.seiu2020.org
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