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CareOne Executive Vice President Elizabeth Straus. (Photo: CareOne.)

Opinion: Thank you, front line pandemic workers

By Elizabeth Straus, April 26 2021 11:40 am

OPINION

As we reflect on this past year, one dominated by the pandemic that has taken so much from us, we feel a surge of emotions from fear to grief to hope. Yet the one which might be the most enduring is gratitude, an appreciation for how much our frontline workers across the healthcare industry sacrificed to protect and care for our loved ones and members of the community. Time after time they faced unimaginable challenges presented by COVID-19 but they did not waver in their compassion or commitment.

The war against the virus is far from over for our frontline employees especially as scientists discover new variants. Tens of thousands of new cases still occur daily. Approximately 1,500 Americans are dying from the virus every day while thousands more wind up hospitalized.

At CareOne, we couldn’t be more grateful for all the incredible work our staff and nurses continue to demonstrate during this difficult period. Throughout the pandemic, our team members worked seven days a week for months. They did this out of dedication, care and concern for their residents. Some of whom are more like family as they have cared for them for years. Not days or weeks but years. They know their children and grandchildren and stayed late to coordinate virtual visits with their family. Many chose to move away from their own families for fear of bringing the virus home. Some bravely cared for our residents as they themselves lost loved ones to the virus. These are not average employees. They are compassionate and hardworking who give their all every day. Because of this extraordinary dedication to caring for our seniors CareOne was proud to announce earlier this month that it had increased the starting wages for hourly non-clinical team members to $16.00 per hour, and for all hourly direct care team members to $17.50 per hour.

You cannot provide the level of care that we pride ourselves on without making a concerted daily-effort to improve. Investment in our facilities, technology, and team members is something that we at CareOne take seriously. These wage increases are designed to ensure we retain our top-flight staff and attract new employees who will share our passion for providing outstanding care. The new hourly wages exceed the current New Jersey minimum wage of $12. It has always been our belief that if we pay our people well, and the market allows it, we do not need mandates to tell us how to properly reward our hardworking team members. Leadership in the free market will manage such issues, like we have at CareOne.

Aside from this virulent virus, the industry had to navigate other challenges, such as new regulations, guidelines, and staffing to ensure every resident is cared for properly.  Since the beginning of the pandemic the nursing home industry has borne a huge brunt of the loss of life, resulting in calls for change. We have all learned, and are still learning, that we can do some things differently and better. Our model of care is always evolving based on the needs of our communities and the circumstances at that moment. One thing that the pandemic has highlighted is just how different the CareOne model of care is to others.

We have taken great strides to employ medical professionals and healthcare workers who are higher-skilled caregivers to residents who have very specific needs. It has been our focus to provide post-acute care to patients who require physician-directed care and intensive nursing care. These patients typically also require significant use of medical services and a team of physicians, nurses, therapists, and other professionals to deliver complex clinical-treatment.

While this virus has proven unpredictable and indiscriminating in who it attacks, it has shown that not every facility is well-equipped to handle patients needing a higher-level of skilled care. Merely cordoning off floors or sections of a floor are not enough. If you want to be a provider to high-standard care, then you have to be willing to prove that. You need to make the necessary investments in people and facilities. Investments that we at CareOne have proudly made.

The decision to adequately staff our facilities is in line with our core mission. Treating our patients and employees with dignity and respect is sacrosanct at CareOne. Ensuring that we are able to deliver on this commitment to our residents starts with employing dedicated professionals and compensating these professionals with a wage that reflects their value to our company and patients. We are only as good as the people we employ. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that these healthcare heroes have earned it.

 

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