Classify Home Care Workers as Essential Personnel in Emergency Management Plans
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but home health care workers are most effective when they can reach their clients’ homes, especially during a citywide emergency like Hurricane Sandy, when “non-essential personnel” are advised to shelter in place.
To that end, Staten Island lawmakers Michael Cusick (D-Mid Island) and Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) are expected to promote bills in their respective assemblies that would specifically identify doctors, nurses, hospice workers and home care providers as “essential personnel,” exempting them from travel restrictions and offering the same curfew protections experienced by police, firefighters and EMTs during emergencies when travel might otherwise be restricted.
The bills, proposed last year to the State Assembly and State Senate as A. 6350-B and S.4719 would also require municipalities to incorporate home care workers into their emergency management plans, ensuring continuity of care for home bound patients by making it easier for home care providers to gain access to no-travel zones.
These bills were first proposed in the 2013-14 legislative session and passed the Senate and State Assembly, but were vetoed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who opposed several riders attached to the final law.
It makes sense that these important bills would come from Staten Island lawmakers – of the 43 people killed as a direct result of the storm surge, 23 of those deaths occurred on Staten Island, and more than one half of those killed by the storm were 65 or older.
This expansion of essential personnel to home care workers have been universally commended by New York’s home care community. Both the Home Based Care Alliance, an emergency preparedness training organization partnered with New York Emergency Management and the Home Care Association of New York State called attention to this issue in the months following Hurricane Sandy.
In a written statement, the HCA called on elected officials to approve the bill, saying it will ensure “vital access to home health and hospice care during emergencies – when already vulnerable elderly, ill and disabled individuals in the community are at exponentially greater risk and in urgency of need.”
SelectCare Vice President and HBCA Executive Board Member Carla Holub urged legislators to push the bill forward, recalling that many SelectCare home health aides and nurses were forced to traverse travel-restricted regions of the city in order to reach their clients.
“We support this bill because we saw firsthand the need to allow home care staff and hospice workers to get to their patients during an emergency,” Holub said. “During Hurricane Sandy, our aides made tremendous efforts to reach their clients before the storm made landfall. If this bill is passed, we can focus our efforts on protecting our patients, rather than fighting to reach them.”
SelectCare takes emergency preparedness seriously and trains all administrators and caregivers on how to ensure safety and continuity of care during local, city and state-wide emergencies. To learn more about how we can protect you and your loved ones during an emergency, call us today.
UPDATE: In an email sent on Friday, May 1, 2015, HCA Executive Vice President Al Cardillo announced that the Essential Personnel Bill has been added to the Assembly Codes and Assembly Ways and Means Committee agendas for this week. If they are approved, the bill will be positioned for passage through the State Assembly next week. We will update as the bill moves forward.