Home healthcare workers say they're facing several challenges, need help

Posted at 3:22 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 19:55:56-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - At Caring Hearts Senior Living, things are challenging right now, something home healthcare workers say is common right now.

"If anything doesn't change, a lot of us are going to have to shut down," said Iris Wright, the company's owner.

The company provides home healthcare to seniors in Hampton Roads, but right now is facing staffing issues and issues caring for the most vulnerable population.

Wright says the state reimburses her company just over $14 per hour of care for a patient covered by Medicaid. She says the rate is too low and in some cases, businesses like hers are losing money caring for Medicaid patients.

Wright began her business in January.

"I did it because I want to take care of people and I want our seniors to have quality care. In order to do that, someone has to stand up and ask for help," she said.

On top of that, the minimum wage recently increased to $9.50 in Virginia, meaning margins for these businesses are running thin. Wright says she's had workers leave for employment at restaurants and retail because right now, the pay is better.

Wright and other healthcare business owners met with members of Rep. Bobby Scott's staff on Wednesday morning to discuss the issue. In a statement to News 3, Scott (D-Va.) said, “The home care industry is facing significant challenges because providing these vital services is expensive. As a result, providers are operating on thin margins, workers are paid low wages for difficult work, and many aging adults and people with disabilities cannot afford the care they desperately need," adding that he supports increasing the Medicaid reimbursement rate and has introduced legislation to help.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) also announced he was introducing a bill Wednesday to provide more than $1 billion in aid to the direct care industry.

"Look the direct care workforce - talk about a workforce that's been on the front line in the last year and really seen tremendous challenges and we really need to supply support," he said.

Wright says she supports initiatives like this and says she's going to continue to push for change.

"My biggest fear is that our clients are going to have to go to nursing homes and leave their families," she said.