CLAYMONT, Del. – The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed local executives to connect with their constituents in a virtual environment. So Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride went to Zoom to meet the Demby family on Wednesday.
The senator heard from the family how they rely on private nurses and the struggles they are currently facing. “We need to do more to ensure these families get the care they need and deserve and to help our home health workers do so,” said Sen. McBride.
Tiffany Demby, 21, lives with her mother and two sisters and has cerebral palsy. Her mother Liz says private nurses provide both the physical and emotional care that Tiffany and her family need. “They were therapists, they were friends, they were confidants. They were so many things. It’s not just about me and Tiffany, it’s my whole family, ”Liz said.
But due to COVID-19 and a lack of funding for the private care program, Liz says it’s a struggle to make sure the family has a nurse who covers all shifts. “They’re valued and needed more than anyone can ever really know,” said Liz.
The private nursing program in Delaware is funded by Medicaid. Robert Lattin of BAYADA Home Health Care says these reimbursement rates have not increased in more than 16 years. “They’re not keeping up with our ability to stay competitive with institutions like hospitals and nursing homes that they can pay more for,” Lattin said.
Lattin tells 47ABC that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated funding needs with security needs. He says that relying on one or two nurses instead of different nurses each day of the week not only increases the nurses bond with families. It also reduces the risk of COVID-19 spreading in customers’ homes. “These are fewer chances of exposure and fewer people to hold accountable and worry about,” Lattin said.
Senator McBride says the solution isn’t just to sit back and wait for COVID-19 to go away. The senator says Delaware needs to raise wages for health care workers and improve access to insurance and Medicaid for Delawareans. “We also need to feel a sense of urgency in addressing some of the structural problems our health professionals and some of the families they serve face,” said Sen. McBride.
The Senator adds that she believes Delaware lawmakers can work with health care providers to raise much-needed funds without breaking the bank of the state. “I don’t think we are faced with a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ between making responsible financial decisions and fulfilling our commitments,” said Sen. McBride.
Senator McBride chairs the Delaware Senate Health and Social Services Committee. She says she and other lawmakers on the committee will look more closely at how they can help more families like the Dembys.