PEARLAND, Texas – A nursing shortage in Texas is hurting children with multiple disabilities.
“Homecare is not getting the funding they need to keep our children home and safe,” said Caroline Cheevers.
One Pearland mother is pushing for better pay to keep private duty nurses on the job, making sure children have the adequate care they need.
It’s a typical day in the Cheevers family Pearland home. 13-year-old Justin, 12-year-old Hailey, and 9-year-old Ava are all diagnosed with multiple disabilities. Nurses are busy preparing their lunches and medications.
“They need to have eyes on, supervision 24 hours a day,” said Cheevers.
Caroline Cheevers and her husband adopted the 3 children. She said their struggle, is keeping enough nurses to treat their children in their home.
“Right now, we have a total of nine nurses. We are seven nurses short,” said Cheevers.
The shortage of private-duty nursing is a statewide issue, impacting 7,000 children who are considered medically fragile. Their care is covered by the STAR Managed Care Program, providing Medicaid benefits.
Jonathan Willman is the Director of Nurses for Consolidated Home Health. He said it is hard for private duty nurses to compete when hospitals and travel nurses are getting paid much higher.
“This base nursing rate for private nursing, has not had an increase since 2000,” said Willman.
According to Willman, Licensed Vocational Nurses make between $22 to $26 an hour and registered nurses make between $30 to $36 dollars an hour.
“The RNs at the hospital, they’re making closer to $50, sometimes $90 an hour depending on how long they have been there and what level RN they are,” said Willman.
Not having qualified nurses in the home creates an array of issues.
“We’ve seen 11-year-olds who are changing their sisters and brother’s trach,” said Willman.
“Without pediatric home nurses, I can’t work. And I need to be able to support my family. I can’t hire babysitters for my children, they don’t have the skills my children need to survive,” said Cheevers.
Cheevers said if she does not have nurses in her home, her children would have to spend more time in the hospital.
“It’s exceptionally expensive because they require ICU-level care,” said Cheevers.
Records show a one-week stay in the hospital for severe RSV or a major respiratory infection costs over $25,000. A private duty nurse for 8 hours a day costs just $2,300 for that same week.
With the state’s nearly 33-billion-dollar budget surplus this year, advocates feel there has to be room to pay nurses more. Cheevers and Willman have visited the state capitol, asking legislators for a 40% increase In pay for private duty nurses.
But their proposal has repeatedly been turned down.
“It’s incredibly angering and frustrating. It’s almost like, they don’t care. And I know that’s probably not the case but that’s what it feels like as a parent, is that they don’t care about us,” said Cheevers.
Last month, they received a glimmer of hope with the house approving a roughly 20% increase. Now, they’re waiting to see if the Senate will get on board.
In 2022, several other states increased rates for private-duty nurses. Including, Missouri with a 40 percent increase, Arizona increased its rates by 10%, Virginia went up by 65%, Indiana reached 30% and Mississippi increased its rates by 20%.
“Our children are worth it. Texas prides itself on being a pro-life state and our children deserve the care and access to care they need in order to thrive here,” said Cheevers.
The Senate is expected to make a decision before the session ends on May 29th. The Session ends May 29th.