Vet’s Home nurses protest staffing, wages

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QUINCY — About 25 nurses spent a couple of hours before their shifts Tuesday morning walking the picket line outside the 12th Street entrance to the Illinois Veterans Home.

Margo Gislain with the Illinois Nurses Association said the nurses were “protesting unsafe working conditions for both the union nurses and the veterans that they care for.”

“There has been an increase in assaults on nurses due to short staffing and patients cannot receive the care they compassionately deserve because of the unfilled nursing vacancies left open by the State of Illinois,” she said.

Gislain said there are 25-30 openings at IVHQ and the state is filling the games with travel nurses who are paid at a much higher rate.

“It takes so long to hire someone that they are just taking the better offers from the hospitals,” she said.

Brian Myers, a veterans’ home nurse who was on the picket line, said the number of vacancies is not reflected when nurses go online to look for jobs.

“We have meetings out here with management and they tell us we have X amount of openings for RN positions,” Myers said. “And we go online look at the website and there’s maybe one posted.”

Myers said while wages are an issue, getting the staff shortage solved is just as important.

“One of the main things we want to do is get better staffing ratios for the veterans here that gave part of their lives to help protect us and we want to make sure in their twilight years they we repay that debt,” he said “One of the main things in the contract is going to get better staffing ratios.”

Gislain said this is not a Quincy-exclusive problem.

“This is absolutely a statewide issue,” she said. “There are twenty-some vacancies here, but there are hundreds across the state of Illinois. Nursing is a very competitive field anyway, so make the salaries competitive. I mean, we’re in contract negotiations for a reason. You can walk to any hospital in the state and they’ll give you thousands of dollars as a signing bonus. And they’re trying to get nurses to do double the work of other nurses for less pay. And that’s just not going to attract the kind of nurses who are gonna stay here.”

Statement from Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Terry Prince:

The dedicated staff, including nurses at the Veterans’ Home at Quincy, provide the highest level of care and are critical to the quality of life for Veterans in our care. We continue to nurture our partnership with the union to ensure the nursing staff is supported and valued. The Home’s leadership consistently works with our nursing team to understand and address concerns as they are brought forward. IDVA is mandated by the state and federal government to maintain a minimum standard for hours of care for each Veteran, and IDVA exceeds those requirements. IDVA is proud that the Veterans’ needs are met in a timely manner. The Home’s census is aligned with its current staffing to ensure safety for both residents and staff.
In order to meet and exceed staffing requirements, the IVHQ team has been working hard over the past several months to recruit, hire, and train skilled professionals to join the nursing staff. These efforts include widespread postings, job fairs, and marketing in the deeply competitive post-pandemic healthcare workforce. While there is a nation- wide hiring crisis in health care and other industries, IDVA will continue an aggressive hiring campaign to ensure we can serve Veterans seeking care, especially as our $230 million new building is slated to open in 2024.”

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