By Suzanne Navin, Seven Oaks
Last week, Governor Doyle delivered his final State of the State address and President Obama delivered his first State of the Union. In both speeches, job creation was deemed the key to an economic rebound. However, the state and nation’s job growth prospects are not limited to manufacturing and entrepreneurship.
From small towns to cities, Wisconsin’s long term care facilities are major employers that provide both rewarding, high-wage jobs and invaluable services to the frail and elderly they serve. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are vital to the economic and employment base of communities across the state, and they are vital important to the growing number of citizens who require quality long term care– and the millions more who will need it in the years ahead. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care will generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018 – more than any other industry, largely in response to rapid growth in the elderly population.
Wisconsin’s long term care facilities are an integral part of the state’s economy, contributing more than $5 billion annually through job creation, tax revenue, and payment for goods and services. Wisconsin nursing homes directly employ more than 50,000 workers – roughly the same number employed by the state’s paper, plastics, real estate, and accommodation industries. And in many rural communities, local nursing homes and assisted living communities are often the largest employers. In fact, Seven Oaks alone employs 154 workers and contributes more than $12,638,416 to Glendale’s economy.
However, Seven Oaks, like so many others across the state, struggle daily to both provide quality care and keep our doors open. A full 70 percent of our operating expenses are devoted to wages, benefits, and other labor costs, and Medicaid payment rates to nursing homes for care provided falls short by more than $280 million annually. And, unfortunately, for the residents we serve and those who work to care for them 24-hours a day and 7 days a week, Wisconsin ranked dead last in the country again this year in Medicaid reimbursement rates. With Medicaid funding stability directly tied to staffing stability, the potential of future cuts to Medicaid could mean lost jobs, staffing dislocation, and compromised care.
Over and over again, both in the most recent state budget and those of years past, the long term care sector – and the needs of those we serve – have been ignored and shortchanged.
Seven Oaks and all of Wisconsin’s long-term care providers are ready, willing, and able to create and maintain good-paying jobs in every area of Wisconsin. They could play a significant role in rebooting the state’s economy; but to do so, we need our elected officials to prioritize the protection and preservation of funding for those who receive care in our facilities and those who work hard every day providing that care.
Suzanne Navin has been the administrator at Seven Oaks in Glendale for over 10 years. She can be reached at admin@sevenoakscare. com.