To assess care crisis, Walz ‘walks a day’ in PCA’s shoes

Gov. Tim Walz applies deodorant to St. Paul resident Jay Spika, who has multiple sclerosis.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz walked in a home health care worker’s shoes today in St. Paul.

The governor helped 41-year-old Jay Spika, who has primary progressive multiple sclerosis, bathe, dress and depart his St. Paul home. Walz worked alongside one of Spika’s home health aide, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Deb Howze.

The “walk-a-day” event offered Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who participated in a similar event in Minneapolis, a unique perspective on the state’s home health industry.

Federal and state subsidies allow thousands of Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities to stay in their homes, saving taxpayers the cost of providing institutional care.

But workers and clients warn of a worsening labor shortage in their field, caused by low wages and lack of benefits. As the state’s population ages, they fear the crisis will only worsen.

As they worked together to get Spika’s socks and shoes on, Howze told Walz it’s difficult to retain good workers in such a demanding job at $13.25 per hour, the minimum wage in SEIU’s most recent union contract with the state.

“This job is exhausting,” she said. “We have so much turnover. I feel the pay is not enough. You should be able to get a PCA job and be able to live on it without working two extra jobs.”

Earlier this year, Walz and other lawmakers approved the $13.25 minimum wage as part of a two-year union contract covering 25,000 home care workers statewide.

The 10.4% increase was “a starting point,” the governor acknowledged, to addressing the industry’s labor shortage. Walz noted the state has a backlog of thousands of qualified individuals and families who want a home care attendant but can’t get one.

“That means spouses leaving their work, giving up their careers to make sure the care is there,” he said.

Later in the event, Walz turned to Spika and asked what elected officials can do better from his standpoint.

“I think we need to invest in the PCA program,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if you’re going to need these services; it’s a matter of when… And you need a professional.”

Comments

  1. I love this governor who actually sees how hard people in the health care work. Thank you. They deserve so much more. I’ve reached that age myself. We all will you know.

  2. So true on PCA’s getting low pay. Also being able to get a good Pca or a really well trained Pca is another huge issue & for the company they work for wise don’t train them or prepare them for the client they give them. Plus lack of communication with in the company they work for & the company doing all they can to add more clients on a PCA’s work load. My Pca gets $11.50 an hour right now.

    I know for I’m fortunate to have a really good PCA at the moment & unfortunately I’ve also had some not so great PCA’s. But those PCAs that do a good job surly deserve better pay & extra pay for working on holidays & health coverage be great. Thanks Julie

  3. Kristin Doneen says:

    Amen to this! I have spent years trying to keep my elderly mother’s hours staffed (she independently at the time) – dealing with incredible turnover that leaves her in almost constant uncertainty. We’ve tried different agencies and it’s always the same. It’s frightening to have loved ones left unattended to at their level of need, though also no wonder. It’s very hard work indeed. You could take a job as the checkout greeter at Target for virtually the same pay. Home health care workers are critical to our community’s safety and they are SEVERELY UNDERPAID. So glad this is getting attention.

  4. Soon will be a mass migration of LPNs and RNs from home healthcare for the same reasons.

  5. This is amazing. I have worked as a PCA for almost 6 years. The job is daunting at times. Working 12 straight hours watching a single person or helping them just make it through the day- sometimes it’s hard to do that on your own. I now work in the ER setting and when an emergency arrives, a PCA is the first order for compressions on cardiac patients. Pulseless… it is most of the time that we are the position not administering medications or calling out the next order but we are physically putting our bodies into regaining the lives of these lifeless people. It is rewarding yet traumatic at times to know we possibly helped not only one person but an entire family and a group of friends with this one person. Yet we too work second and third jobs because union has us too out on pay raises… a thought….

  6. Char Korich says:

    This is great to hear, finally maybe something will be done or at least this is a beginning! Healthcare workers who provide care to handicapped and especially the elderly are so under recognized, under appreciated, receive low wages and benefits resulting in burnout of dedicated skilled workers or draws people who are not qualified and only want some sort of pay check. Don’t our elderly and handicapped citizens deserve the skillful, compassionate care givers. Haven’t our seniors paid their dues? Doesn’t the caregiver staff deserve pay and benefits that are equivalent to what hospital staff are given to provide a service? Thank you Governor Walz for taking this step. Please also visit a Skilled Nursing Facility!

  7. this is a wonderful start, one-on-one p.c. a. care tryout. gov. Walz, now go to nursing homes and assisted livings in Certified Nursing Assistant Settings. There you have 50+ individuals all needing, cleaning, bathing, dressing , feeding, transferring…Low pay. low staff, and treated horribly by mgmt. Try that next. Thanks

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