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'Caregiving crisis' | Healthcare workers call on CT legislature to address shortage, increase pay

“We find ourselves today in a critical situation where we need to take some intensive action,” said Paul Kidwell, with the Connecticut Hospital Association.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Many in the medical field called on the state legislature Tuesday to address what they call a “critical” healthcare workforce shortage in Connecticut. 

“We are in a caregiving crisis in this country and it will only get worse if we don't do the right thing,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) at a long-term care worker rally in the Legislative Office Building.

Just a few minutes later down the hall, the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee held a public hearing on multiple proposed bills to bring in and retain employees.

“We find ourselves today in a critical situation where we need to take some intensive action,” said the Connecticut Hospital Association’s senior vice president of policy, Paul Kidwell.

Medical professionals, advocates and lawmakers are pushing the state legislature to act on what they say is a growing problem. 

“I lost my apartment in December due to our wages,” a care worker from Manchester Robin David said during Tuesday’s rally.

“The phones are ringing every day, every minute,” said Andrea Thompson, LPN with CT DMHAS. “There’s not enough staffing to answer the phones to help our community.” 

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“I have no time with my family because I have to work and I have to take care of them,” added Chennal Chase from Manchester.

The three bills relating to healthcare workers at Tuesday’s public hearing were House Bill 5438 to create a debt-free college program for workers in healthcare; House Bill 5441 to establish a student-loan forgiveness program for graduates who pursue careers in healthcare; and Senate Bill 936 to conduct a study about workforce development issues in the state.

“We're going to take every opportunity we have to get in front of the legislators and to highlight what we think are the solutions to both retaining the talent we have, and growing it for the future,” Kidwell said.

Advocates say another solution to retaining and attracting workers is increasing pay. 

“25 by 25,” supporters shouted at the long-term care worker rally. They called for raising the minimum wage for these workers to $25 an hour by 2025.

“When y'all go do that budget, y'all take that pen, y’all include us,” said Chase.

The three legislative proposals still need to make their way out of committee, although proponents say there is enough support. 

As for increasing pay, it’s highly unlikely the plan will be in Gov. Lamont’s budget presentation Wednesday, but some lawmakers already raised a bill to allocate about $300 million to state-run group home workers. 

Emma Wulfhorst is a political reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at ewulfhorst@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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