MADISON, WISCONSIN – AARP Wisconsin today applauds Governor Evers’ veto of AB-76, a bill calling for a reduction in the training hours necessary to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in Wisconsin.
“Passage of this bill would have led to reduced quality of care in nursing homes and homecare settings,” said AARP Wisconsin state issues advocacy director Helen Marks Dicks. “Wisconsin takes great pride in the care we provide and the strength of our long-term care system. Today’s action by the governor ensures that our direct care workforce has the investment in their skills to be successful in providing high quality services under their care. This bill would have undermined that assurance.”
The bill called for significantly cutting the training hours for CNAs. Supporters of the legislation argue that cutting training will solve the CNA chronic shortage. But Dicks says the training and skills of those who care for vulnerable family members and loved is also critically important. She says cutting their training requirements is not the answer.
“CNAs are some of the lowest paid health care professionals and are called on to do lifesaving work caring for Wisconsin’s frail, elderly, and sick. The fix to a shortage of CNAs is not reducing their hours of training. It’s by investing more value in their work by increasing their pay, benefits and working conditions. That’s how we solve the shortage.”
Dicks pointed to an example in Minnesota, where the quality of the direct care workforce was initially lauded in conjunction with the relatively low training retirements for workers in long-term care facilities, then later amended after a crisis of elder abuse occurred in elder care facilities. “We should not be in a race to the bottom with neighboring states that have by their own admission failed many of their most vulnerable residents,” Dicks said.
Minnesota was originally held up as a shining example to refute the “myth” that there was a negative correlation between lower hours of training and quality of care. However, the actual myth is that the state’s quality of care improved. In 2016 alone, the Minnesota Department of Health received 25,226 allegations of neglect, physical abuse, unexplained serious injuries, and thefts in state-licensed elder care facilities.
In response, Governor Dayton called for the creation of a group of consumer advocates, led by AARP Minnesota, who were tasked with finding ways to improve the care and safety of vulnerable older Minnesotans living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The group recommended greater regulation and oversight by the state for facilities serving the elderly, and an increase in training for people dealing with patients with dementia.
“This is a cautionary tale of what happens when regulation is light and/or nonexistent, and staff is not adequately trained to deal with the type of patients with whom they interact,” Dicks said.
Judy Gmach, an AARP volunteer advocate from Sheboygan who is a retired nurse and worked in nursing homes, testified against AB 76 at a hearing earlier this year, saying that those cared for by today’s CNAs have more acute medical needs.
“The equipment and treatments are more complex, and the level of care expected to be provided by a CNA is greater than ever,” Gmach said. This is not the time to be lowering the training requirements. Those of us in the field that work with and value CNAs urge you to vote no on this bill. It is bad for CNAs. It is bad for the Care team. It is bad for the patient.”
And it’s bad for Wisconsin overall, Dicks added. “This is why we have strongly opposed the bill and thank the governor for his veto. “We are better than Minnesota in this area and we should not try to emulate their failures by lowering our standards.”