State senator, health care provider say teamwork is needed to support private duty nurses
CLAYMONT, Del. – The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed local leaders to connect with their constituents in a virtual environment. That’s why Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride took to Zoom to meet with the Demby family Wednesday.
The Senator heard from the family about how they rely on private duty nurses, and the struggles that they’re currently facing. “We need to do more to make sure that we’re getting these families the care that they need and they deserve, and to support our home healthcare workers through that,” said Sen. McBride.
21-year-old Tiffany Demby lives with her mom and two sisters, and has cerebral palsy. Her mother, Liz, says private duty nurses provide both the physical and emotional care that Tiffany and her family need. “They’ve been therapists, they’ve been friends, they’ve been confidants. They’ve been so many things. It’s not just to me and Tiffany, but to my entire family,” said Liz.
But because of COVID-19, and a lack of funding for the private duty nursing program, Liz says it’s been a struggle to make sure the family has a nurse covering all their shifts. “They’re valued, and they’re needed more than anybody can really ever know,” said Liz.
Delaware’s private duty nursing program is funded through Medicaid. Robert Lattin with BAYADA Home Health Care says those reimbursement rates haven’t been raised in more than 16 years. “They’re not keeping up with our ability to stay competitive with institutions like hospitals and nursing homes who can pay them more,” said Lattin.
Lattin tells 47ABC the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the need for funding with the need for safety. He says relying on one or two nurses instead of different nurses every day of the week not only increases the nurses’ bond with the families. It also reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19 within the clients’ homes. “That’s less chances of exposure and that’s less people you have to hold accountable and worry about,” said Lattin.
Sen. McBride says the solution isn’t just to sit back and wait for COVID-19 to go away. The Senator says Delaware needs to raise pay for health care workers and increase Delawareans’ access to insurance and Medicaid. “We also need to feel a sense of urgency around addressing some of the structural issues that are facing our health care professionals and some of the families that they serve,” said Sen. McBride.
The Senator adds that she believes Delaware’s legislature can work together with health care providers to increase those badly needed funds, while not breaking the state’s bank. “I do not believe that we are facing a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ here between responsible financial decisions and fulfilling our obligations,” said Sen. McBride.
Sen. McBride is the Chair of the Health and Social Services committee in Delaware’s Senate. She says that she and other legislators on the committee will be taking a closer look at how they can help more families like the Dembys.