Parents, Patient Advocacy Groups, Citing Dangers To Children, Call For State Action To Increase Number Of In-Home Nurses Available

Thursday, June 28, 2018 Child Health News
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***Maryland's Low Medicaid Reimbursement Rates Drive Nurses to Other States***

BALTIMORE, June 28, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Parent and patient advocate groups today announced a campaign to

increase the number of qualified nurses available to provide in-home care in Maryland, citing the difficulty – even after being approved for home nursing assistance – for parents to find nurses to care for their disabled children and loved ones.

In May, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation creating the "Task Force to Study Access to Home Health Care for Children and Adults with Medical Disabilities," acknowledging concern that there is a problem in the state. The task force will hold public hearings and conduct studies, and then report back to key committees in the General Assembly.

"This is a good first step," said Shannon Grace Gahs, a Maryland resident, who works for BAYADA Home Health Care. "The homecare nursing problem in Maryland has been under the radar for far too long.  It is frustrating for parents, and even causes life threatening situations.  It's time that our public officials are aware of the problem and commit to fixing it."

Rene Averitt-Sanzone, Executive Director of Parents Place, an advocacy group for parents of children with disabilities and special needs, said, "This is a crisis!  And it needs to be addressed. Change needs to happen. Parents need nurses for their children."

One problem for Maryland is that the state's Medicaid reimbursement rate for home nurses is substantially lower than surrounding jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. As a result, even nurses that reside in Maryland will work in those states for higher pay. One objective of the campaign is to convince Gov. Hogan and the General Assembly to increase the Medicaid reimbursement level, so the state is at least on par with its neighbors.

"There's an absolute shortage because the good nurses are following the money," said Dawn E. Seek, Executive Director of the Maryland-National Capital Homecare Association. "So, even if there are nurses out there that could potentially fill that role, the low reimbursement or the limited number of hours of care that they can provide pushes them in a different direction. But, Maryland, like some other states, hasn't made it easy for people to become nurses, and we don't support our nurses with adequate pay."

Advocates said that state officials are shortsighted not to push harder to support home nurses because it can actually save tax dollars.  The alternative to in-home care is frequently institutionalized care in a hospital, facility or nursing home where the cost far outdistances those associated with an in-home nurse.  Moreover, studies show it is better for disabled patients to spend as much time as possible in their home environment.

Clearly, the nursing shortage is not limited to Maryland. There are currently about three million nurses in the United States, according to the American Nurses Association, but the country will need more than one million new registered nurses by 2022 to fulfill expected health care needs.

But that doesn't offer much relief to parents.

Jill Pelovitz, of Severn, waited eight years for her daughter, Nadiya, 14, to qualify for a home nurse, who stays with her during the night.  Nadiya has multiple disabilities, including night time seizures that are so severe they can be life threatening.  Pelovitz spent years watching over her daughter at night, having to provide the medical assistance to get her through the seizures.  Then, earlier this month, Nadiya was approved to have a skilled nurse stay with her at night, but the service is reviewed after 90 days and then every six months. 

"I've chosen an agency that pulls nurses from different areas so they've been able to send me a lot of different people," said Pelovitz. "I don't know what the consistency is going to look like long-term because we've just started. However, finding a nurse is not easy. I called multiple agencies trying to fill this need and I had agencies not even call me back; I had some call me back but couldn't commit to doing it. I had some finally get back to me and say we can fill part of the time. So, access to skilled nursing is a huge, huge issue."

When the bill creating the task force was under consideration, Pelovitz said she spoke to many elected officials, and Delegate Mark S. Chang came to her house to see first hand what it was like for a parent to manage a severely disabled child without the support of a skilled nurse.

"I think he was a little bit surprised to actually come into our home and see what it is like," she said. "I was just barely holding on and hoping my child didn't have a crisis in the middle of the night that I slept through. We shared our story with him about how broken this system is…the need is so much greater than anyone can imagine."

Gahs said they will be reaching out to find more parents with stories to tell about their ordeals, hoping to convince state officials to increase the Medicaid reimbursements and take other steps to increase the number of nurses.

"We know Maryland can do better," Gahs said.

Contact: Michael K. Frisby 202-828-1242/

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SOURCE BAYADA Home Health Care

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