DELMAR — Employees at a Delmar nursing home have reached a contract agreement that ensures they can keep their health insurance which quelled fears of losing their jobs.
Mindy Berman, a spokesperson for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East — the Good Samaritan Nursing Home and Kenwood Manor employees’ union — said that employees voted “overwhelmingly” to ratify the contract agreement on Thursday, Feb. 13 and Friday, Feb. 14. The agreement, first announced on Wednesday, Feb. 12, was between them and Centers Health Care, the Bronx-based prospective buyer of the facilities.
The facilities’ operator, the Lutheran Care Network, had not been paying into the employees’ Health Benefit Fund since October 2019 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December. Staffing levels and supplies declined as a result, with many employees worrying about losing their health insurance and the well-being of the nursing home residents. However, a scheduled three-day strike late last month was canceled after Centers Health Care, which originally did not plan on maintaining the employees’ health insurance, became open to negotiations.
“This is an incredible victory and this is a great solution,” said Berman. “This was really a great effort between workers, residents, families and lots of the community members who came out in support of it too.”
As the contract agreement was ratified, the Centers Health Care is one step closer to purchasing the facilities and a bankruptcy hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 25.
John Makoyi, an employee and caregiver of over 18 years now, also expressed relief at the news. “But we also know this is only the first step. We are hoping the bankruptcy hearing will go smoothly so that the new operators can come in and start to invest in the facility. That investment must do what is necessary to improve staffing and help to recruit and retain a stable workforce.”
Robbin Colandrea, an Averill Park resident whose parents have been at the Good Samaritan Nursing Home for three years now, said her family chose it because of its reputation and how it could take in both her parents. Her father has since died but her mother is still a resident, receiving care as she has Alzheimer’s.
While saying that quality of care and staffing were optimal when they first came in, those two factors have declined in the last nine months. “I’ve since noticed a lack of staffing — minimal staffing at best — and nurses and aides floating from one unit to the next trying to help one another,” she said. “But the care and compassion of these workers are still there and you can tell they’re truly attached to their jobs and the residents.”
She added that it is beneficial whenever there is enough regular staff to care for her mother but the Lutheran Care Network’s recent financial struggles have threatened that.
“That caring and level of connection is so vital to the resident population. To hear about the new potential owner coming in saying all the right things is a huge relief as long as it goes forward,” she said. “My mother is not aware of the whole situation but I know she’s somehow connected to her staff and she recognizes she’s safe because it’s a safe space. When there’s a lot of turnover or random staff members coming in for shifts, that’s very distressing to my mom and other residents.”
Due to the contract agreement’s announcement, a Feb. 13 town hall meeting at Bethlehem YMCA meant for those affected by the nursing home’s financial struggles was canceled.