Good Samaritan employee Teneisha Addison, center, gets emotional about possibly losing health benefits and her job. Diego Cagara / Spotlight News
DELMAR — Employees at Good Samaritan Nursing Home are worried about their and the facility’s futures as they will lose their healthcare benefits in less than three weeks.
Employees first received a letter back on Sept. 24 that their benefits will expire on Oct. 24, giving them just a one-month notice. An emergency press conference was held in front of the facility on Friday, Oct. 4 at 10:30 a.m. where numerous employees held up signs expressing their demand for the return of their healthcare benefits and some also spoke about their dissatisfaction with their employer’s, Lutheran Care Network — which operates the nursing home and the neighboring Kenwood Manor — handling of the situation.
A press release by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the employees’ union, indicated that Lutheran Care Network has been undergoing “financial difficulty and [is] trying to sell the facilities” as well as lacking enough staff and supplies to meet the nursing home residents’ needs. It also reported that Lutheran Care Network “hasn’t been paying into the employee’s contractually required Health Benefit Fund” which explains the eventual termination of their healthcare benefits.
Fears about the unknown future of the employees, nursing home residents and even the facility itself permeated the aforementioned press conference.
“It’s very important that the homes remain viable and most specifically, from our vantage point, that the caregivers that provide such quality care for folks in the home remain here or can afford to remain here,” said Greg Speller, the union’s executive vice president. “That’s one of the mainstays and what keeps a lot of the caregivers here — the folks that know the residents of the home intimately because they’ve taken care of them for years in many cases. It’s a key ingredient to keeping the quality care here.”
Spotlight News has reached out to Lutheran Care Network but did not receive comment at this time of publication.
John Makoyi, one of the employees who has worked there for 18 years now, expressed his concern that he would need to find a new job in order to get healthcare benefits again. “Most of us don’t know what our futures are because with most of our full-time jobs, the first thing you look at is healthcare coverage and without that, we won’t have a peace of mind,” he said. “If the nursing home will have no staff because of this, I don’t know where the residents will go either. It’s going to have a big impact on the community.”
Makoyi added that he hopes Lutheran Care Network comes up with a plan to support the employees at the nursing home. “We have our own families to take care of too and it’s going to be hard for us to take care of the residents here if we can’t even take care of our own family members,” he said.
Teneisha Addison, a fellow employee who has been here for almost six years now, became emotional during the press conference and said, “We have families, like [Makoyi] said, and I have a husband who’s sick who needs medical attention and we can’t afford to pay medical bills, you know, if we don’t have insurance. We can’t afford to pay them. We care about our residents, we care about our jobs.”
Addison added that the nursing home has been struggling with inadequate resources for over a year now and brought up how Lutheran Care Network’s financial difficulties had led to many rental beds to be removed from rooms inside the nursing home. “It’s really sad. It’s the residents that I’m really concerned about and they paid their money to be here and they can’t even get treated right,” she said.
She connected this with how she herself would feel unsafe working at the nursing home without health insurance, bringing up a hypothetical example where she may accidentally injure herself on the job but cannot even visit a doctor because she is not covered.
When the fact that the holiday season is approaching soon was brought up, both Makoyi and Addison agreed that their situation’s timing makes things harder for them and their fellow colleagues. “That’s the time to be more with your families and kids but at this point, we’re going to be worried about what is next. If something happens to my kids or myself, what will happen?”
Addison concluded, “I just really hope they know we’re serious about our health insurance, that’s all. We just want to be heard.”
Photos by Diego Cagara / Spotlight News