Minister: Nursing home workers should not be paid less than in healthcare

Source: Gergey Lukecha/ERR

In the run-up to the reform of nursing homes beginning on July 1 next year, Health and Labor Minister Peep Peterson (SDE) has called for carers' pay to be negotiated and collectively bargained so that it does not fall below that of general healthcare workers.

The result of the reform should be that the individual requiring a place in a nursing home would be responsible for the cost of food and lodging, while the municipality and state would pay for care regardless of the level of need.

On the morning show "Terevision," Peep Peterson, the minister of health and labor, said that there is a severe shortage of caregivers and that they are being now actively recruited.

Peterson, in calling for a collective bargaining agreement, said that while the model developed by the ministry currently provides for a salary of €1,345 per caregiver, the minimum wage could be increased to the same level as what caregivers earn in the healthcare system, i.e. around €1,200, plus night and holiday pay, so that people would have a decent income, not lower than in hospitals.

"I would like to see associations of cities and municipalities, some of whose members include both nursing homes and private nursing facilities, sign this agreement and promote these homes as an attractive place to work. People might come from the stores, or they might be the same people who we are now releasing from care duty at home," Peterson added.

The minister said that the state intends to return thousands of people from care duties at home to the labor market.

The state will invest €40 million on care and home support services in the coming year, and a minimum of €57 million annually thereafter.

Peterson highlighted a two-step strategy for addressing the present lack of nursing facility places.

Since people's initial preference is not to join a nursing home, Peterson said there is a large gap in assisting individuals who choose to remain at home as long as possible. "Home care is where there is considerable increased funding; €12 million of the general budget can be redirected to home care development next year," Peterson explained.

Peterson also anticipates a stream of workers emerging from people who are no longer required to care for family members at home.

Peterson said that the typical length of care is eight months, and that persons prefer to enter care later rather than earlier. He added that it is not merely a matter of finances; individuals may and wish to live at home for as long as possible. In terms of a person's dignity, home care is even more important.

Peterson could not give an exact number of how many more nursing homes would be needed immediately, adding that as the reform progresses, it could be better seen how big the need for nursing homes is.

"There is no precise estimate because we do not know how much we are already covering with home care and how much is coming on top on that, as well as how many unfilled places there still are in private care homes," Peterson said, adding that, however, a few thousand more places would be needed in the coming years.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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