SEIU 1199 New England member Adelina Ramos served as an expert witness during a recent virtual Senate Finance Committee hearing. The hearing, titled “A National Tragedy: COVID-19 in the Nation’s Nursing Homes,” examined the long-standing injustices, shortcomings and failures that led to nursing homes becoming pandemic epicenters.
Ramos is a certified nursing assistant in the Alzheimer's unit at a nursing home in Greenville, R.I. She shared how critically short staffing left her facility unprepared to handle an influx of COVID-19 cases. More than 20 of Adelina’s residents died in just over a month, as well as a fellow CNA. Ramos noted that low wages and unsafe working conditions contribute to staffing shortages at nursing homes, compromising quality care and putting lives at risk.
“I feel a calling to do this work and care for others. But passion can’t pay the bills,” Ramos told the Committee. “I am fortunate that I’m a member of my union, SEIU 1199-New England. We’ve negotiated higher wages and pandemic pay. We’re able to advocate for ourselves and our residents, but not every nursing home worker has a union.”
Rhode island currently ranks 41st in the country for the average number of hours nursing home residents receive, and the starting wage for Rhode Island nursing home workers is just $12.34.
“These issues existed before COVID-19. [The pandemic] just exposed the most tragic and deadly parts of nursing home work,” Ramos concluded. “It is why I keep fighting for a $15 minimum wage and a union for all workers.”