February 22, 2000

Cindy Geist, RN
BQA Nurse Aide Registry
P.O. Box 2969
Madison WI 53701-2969

Dear Ms. Geist:

With the intensity of staffing concerns rapidly becoming one of the major issues facing the long term care profession in Wisconsin, I cannot over-estimate the crucial role of single task employees to the membership of the Wisconsin Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (WAHSA) and to the elderly residents these facilities serve. Just this week, WAHSA conducted a brief survey of our membership on this issue. The results of this survey confirmed my belief. Losing the ability to employ single task employees to assist residents with feeding would be devastating to the long term care profession and to the frail elderly who currently benefit from these services.

WAHSA sent the survey to 190 skilled nursing facilities. Of the 100 facilities that have responded to date, forty-seven (47) facilities currently employee single task employees to assist residents with feeding. In addition, sixteen (16) facilities plan to be employing single task employees within the next six months, nineteen (19) within the next twelve months, and five (5) facilities within two years. If these predictions hold true, and if we can assume the responses from these 87 facilities are representative of the long term care profession across the state, then we can expect that within the next two years about 87 percent of Wisconsin's skilled nursing facilities will be employing single task employees to assist residents with feeding.

Unfortunately, the survey also revealed that some employers mistakenly assumed that as long as they trained and tested their single task workers, the facility had met its regulatory obligation (i.e., some of these facilities have yet to obtain BQA approval for these workers). Many of these facilities report using job descriptions obtained from other facilities that had previously obtained BQA approval to employ single task workers.

To get an accurate picture of the value of single task employees, please consider the following. As a whole, the 47 facilities that utilize single task staff employee a total of 231 single task workers. These 231 employees assist with the feeding of 417 residents each and every day. That's 471 residents in only 47 facilities. It doesn't take much to determine the magnitude of single task employees and the value of the service they provide across the state of Wisconsin.

Why do facilities employee single task employees? Quite simply, because of the CNA shortage according to 91% of the facilities currently employing single task employees.

Today, in Wisconsin's long term care facilities, single task employees are providing very valuable services to the frail elderly entrusted to the care of these facilities. Every day, these caring individuals make a difference in the life of individuals the difference between a nutritious meal served with dignity by a person who has time to share, time to care, and time to converse, or a meal that is simply served. If you were the resident, which would you choose?

We are unaware of even a single negative outcome resulting from the use of single task employees. How could federal officials, in good conscience, deny facilities the ability to meet residents' needs through the use of single task employees?

On behalf of the members of the Wisconsin Association of Homes and Services for the Aging and the elderly who reside in these facilities, I thank you for your efforts to help us preserve the positions of the long term care single task employees who assist residents with feeding. We fully intend to bring this issue to the attention of our Congressional delegates.

Sincerely,

John Sauer
Executive Director




WAHSA 204 South Hamilton Street Madison, WI 53703
Telephone: (608)255-7060 FAX:(608)255-7064