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Essential care givers deserve better pay

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Would you pay more than $15/hour to save your mother?

The personal care giver has always been essential. In the pandemic, improper caregiving is life threatening.

Yet, the average salary for dog-walkers is $15.77 and the average salary for a personal care giver is $13.72.

The Maryland Regional Direct Services Collaboration (MRDSC) was formed in 2018 to address the crisis in the region regarding direct service workers.

These front line caretakers serve the elderly and disabled who live at home, in long term care facilities, ambulatory and hospital settings. Much of this vital work force in the DC-Maryland region are African-American women. Approximately one in four of these women require government subsidies that supplement their low wages. This wage scale requires care givers to work at 2- 3 places per day.

Before the pandemic shutdown, MRDSC was focused upon three issues in this profession: recruitment of new workers, innovation and improvement in education and training of workers, and better wages and benefits to recruit and retain excellence  in care.

The Covid crisis has exposed the many fault lines which MRDSC was so concerned with and has accelerated our efforts toward rapid solutions.

The public health crisis demonstrates that this highly contagious infection, the  severity of illness and deaths are correlated with the density of the population exposed.

Of all Covid deaths, 40 percent are related to assisted living facilities, both the residents and caregivers!

The singular reason for this is spread by care givers is that many of them must work at two or three facilities to maintain  their standard of living.

Our national and local  leadership has not been responsive to this injustice.

MRDSC has expanded the three topics noted above, and now feels the imperative to demand that our national and regional leaders must supply essential PPE, soap and hand sanitizers to the Department of Health and Social Welfare, monitor Covid cases in the Department of Health and Social Welfare patients and families, assure that the workforce is maintained during this crisis.

For example, care givers should receive a designation by the governor as essential workers and they are entitled to free childcare, increase wages for home care workers at Office of Health Care Quality-certified residential service agencies through a wage pass-through.

Our region, as all in the world, are collectively in the early stages of a long battle. Your grandparents, parents and ultimately you are all exposed and vulnerable.

We must learn from our early mistakes but take swift and decisive action to prevent increasing morbidity and mortality.

MRDSC has taken the lead, we encourage and invite others to join in our efforts.

By William R. Leahy, M.D. | Chair of the Board, MRDSC

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