Union president: Not enough CNAs for ‘5-star’ DeKalb County nursing home

February 5, 2019

DeKALB – A five-star nursing facility shouldn’t struggle to have already-overworked and underpaid certified nursing assistants to sign up for additional work shifts that come with monetary bonuses, according to one DeKalb County Rehab and Nursing Center worker.

Chuck Coulter, maintenance technician at the nursing home and president of AFSCME Local 3537, showed blank evening shift sign-up sheets for the past few days to the center’s operating board Monday as he addressed his concerns about the facility he started working for about 4 years ago losing its family atmosphere. With more temporary nursing staff being brought into the facility, he said, he’s concerned the patients are the ones that will ultimately suffer and start to be viewed more as tasks than family members.

“That’s not how I want my parents or how I want my grandparents to be taken care of,” Coulter said.

The remarks came before the nursing home’s operating board interviewed for a new administrator for the facility during the board’s special meeting on Monday. Board members said during Monday’s special meeting they will vote on a new administrator at a future special meeting. The date of that meeting was not assigned on Monday.

Coulter said the center is still meeting Illinois Department of Public Health nursing staff requirements, but more than half of the 16 CNAs per shift are coming from temporary employment agencies. Even though temperary workers aren’t getting benefits, he said, they are getting a higher wage than workers hired by the center, who earn base pay of about $11 an hour through the nursing home.

Coulter said he worries the nursing home will earn the reputation of being someplace where workers and residents should not go.

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” Coulter said.

Jeff Whelan, DeKalb County Board member and one of the directors on the center’s operating board, said the board has been aware of Coulter’s concern and is trying to get a new administrator hired so problems in the center can be properly addressed. He said the goal is for the center to be in a position where they can hire more workers on their own, including worker benefits, and not have to outsource for CNAs.

“The thing is, it has become very competitive” between the three other nursing homes in the county, which include Oak Crest Retirement Center, Pine Acres Rehab and Living Center and Bethany Rehabilitation and Health Care, Whelan said.

Especially with even more beds eventually being added to the center in a county expansion project, Coulter said, he’s curious how the new administrator – whoever that might be – will handle staffing, let alone staff retention, for the new part of the building.

“That’s the question I want answered,” Coulter said.

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