Long-term care workers in Pennsylvania are seeking significant reform of the state’s nursing home regulations, demanding higher minimum staffing requirements in the wake of COVID-19. 

Members of SEIU Healthcare PA on Monday called on state leaders to consider changes to several nursing home regulations, including staffing requirements, local media outlets reported. The group wants minimum staffing requirements to increase from a current 2.7 hours of care per-day, per-resident to 4.1 hours of care per-day. 

Longtime long-term care nurse Tina Siegel said Monday residents suffer “when there isn’t enough staff.”

“We’re on the front lines, we see it every day,” Siegel said during a news conference. “We’re the ones who see safe staffing affects our residents.”

Provider groups in the past have typically opposed minimum staffing requirements and have cited a need for more government funding to hire more qualified workers to meet any new requirements.

Workforce has also been a key concern for providers during the public health crisis. A November LeadingAge survey found that 73% of providers reported having troubles finding enough staff to cover shifts, 71% are struggling with recruiting new workers; and 65% have had a hard time finding others to cover for sick workers.

The union also called for better wages, a requirement that providers have six-months worth of personal protective equipment, and protections for residents and caregivers when nursing homes are sold or undergo ownership changes. 

“When COVID hit, it laid bare, really, failures of the long-term care system and as a result, thousands of seniors and caregivers have died,” added Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.

The state has reported a total of 11,706 coronavirus-related deaths in long-term care overall as of late last week. It also reported nearly 12,500 cases and about 64,200 cases among staff and residents, respectively.