Gov. Ned Lamont’s Department of Public Health is not willing to give nursing home staff hired during the pandemic a little longer to get fingerprinted for a background check.
Union officials, employees, and nursing home operators are concerned about the directive requiring more than 7,500 nursing home workers hired during the pandemic to be fingerprinted by July 20 or lose their jobs.
Amid concerns for the safety of residents in an industry that is already short-staffed due to the pandemic, union officials and nursing home officials want the deadline moved back.
But the Department of Public Health made it clear Monday that it’s not possible to continue to suspend the law.
In a letter to the head of SEIU District 1199 on Monday, Acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford said “this law is designed to protect nursing home residents, others who receive long-term care services, and the staff who provide their care from people with histories of certain violent crimes and other disqualifying offenses.”
There are 3,964 workers through July 8 who have been fingerprinted and are back to work. However, there are thousands more who might not be able to report to work if they don’t meet the schedule.
Zina Bennett, a CNA from Bridgeport, is not a new employee and doesn’t have to be fingerprinted like her colleagues hired during the pandemic, but she doesn’t think it’s fair.
“Nursing home workers don’t work 9 to 5,” Bennett said.
She said if these workers are unable to report to work then the residents aren’t going to get the care that they need.
“There’s already a staffing crisis in nursing homes,” Bennett said.
She said it was the state that decided not to do the fingerprinting during the pandemic, “so it’s wrong to penalize the workers for this.”
The industry believes there should be more time.
“We agree with the policy outcome DPH is seeking, our nursing homes and employees are working hard on complying with the state’s very aggressive plan, but we are hopeful the state will be reasonable in the final analysis that simply more time may be needed,” said Matt Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities.
Gifford said they are trying to make it easy to get this done.
“As part of this special scheduling initiative, DPH and the State Police worked collaboratively to make available over 9,000 appointment opportunities at 11 State Police barracks through June,” Gifford wrote. “The State Police subsequently expanded the schedule into July, providing 528 appointments each day. Appointments have been available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. in 10-minute increments.”
Gifford said she believes the remaining workers can get fingerprinted before the July 20 deadline.
“We will continue to monitor the data daily and will revisit the current scheduling plan if the projections change significantly,” she added.