The union for the state’s nursing home inspectors has filed a grievance challenging a plan that would require them to serve as disease control consultants to the very homes they are charged with regulating.
In the official grievance, Service Employees International Local 1000 alleges that the state’s 600 nursing home inspectors have had their jobs “thrown into turmoil” because of the state’s new strategy, which it says is “illegal, unsafe and defies nursing standards.”
Nursing home advocates have been vocal against the policy change, saying it poses a blatant conflict of interest because inspectors would be judged on how few violations they or their colleagues identify.
That inherent conflict, they say, could undermine enforcement at a time when regulation is most needed to assure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite such criticism, the state’s top nursing home regulator, Heidi Steinecker, is pushing forward with the plan she has touted as already improving hygiene at the state’s nursing homes.
But on Wednesday, the agency said it does not comment on labor grievances.
The union, in its filing, says the plan would compel its members to disregard various laws and regulations aimed at assuring inspection and consultation roles are kept separate.
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“All of these violations could jeopardize the [inspectors’] nursing licenses,” the union contends, adding that the health department has yet to provide any legal basis to blur “the clear line drawn by the legislature concerning conflict of interest issues” involved in the plan.
The union says the state is saddling nursing home inspectors with the burden of being “a public health staffing solution to repair the broken infection control issues” at the state’s 1200 nursing homes.
So far, there have been more than 3,500 deaths of residents and staff at the state’s nursing homes.