Regional Diegest

Negotiators have reached a tentative contractual agreement to end a 15-day strike by home healthcare workers against the Putnam Aging Program. The Charleston Gazette reported that about 50 striking members of Service Employees International Union Local 1199 were slated to vote on ratifying the three-year agreement Dec. 30. If approved, workers were expected to report to their jobs Dec. 31. Workers first went on strike Dec. 12.

St. Luke’s Hospital in Allentown, PA, and the Visiting Nurse Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania Hospice will open a hospice in Fountain Hill, PA. The building was St. Luke’s birth center for six years before it closed in March for financial reasons. Now managed by the VNA, the center will provide care for 11 terminally ill patients and their families.

Home health care advocates in Boston say Gov. Paul Cellucci’s administration is holding back $7.8 million earmarked for frail seniors in an effort to have enough money for a tax cut. But administration officials said they were just adjusting the accounts to reflect the shortened budget year. Lawmakers were late in getting a budget to Cellucci's desk for signing, reported the Associated Press. Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care, said nearly 900 seniors would not get the care they needed because the administration would spend less than appropriated by the Legislature. He called the savings to the administration a "down payment" on Cellucci's proposed $1.4 billion tax cut. Norman also said the Executive Office of Elder Affairs capped the number of elders to be served and lowered payment rates to providers, the AP reported, but the administration said it was standard fiscal practice not to pay out 12 months worth of services for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. Norman added that the increase should be made retroactive, even though the budget was delayed, because his industry continued to work during the budget impasse.

The McHenry County Board is considering pay raises for certified nursing assistants (CNA) who provide home healthcare through the county health department. The board's Human Resources Committee voted unanimously last week to raise starting pay to $8.75 per hour and boost pay depending on years of service, matching pay raises recently granted to CNAs at the county-run Valley Hi Nursing Home, reported the Chicago Tribune. The board last year raised pay at the nursing home in hopes of reducing turnover and filling vacant positions. The raises upset health department managers, who said the department's CNAs have the same job classification as those at Valley Hi and should be paid the same. But the county administrator said home care nurses work in more difficult surroundings, since they must help patients bathe and clothe themselves and perform other duties without help, the Tribune reported.