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Palmerton woman speaks out for health workers pay

A Palmerton woman injured in a 2014 crash joined more than 200 providers, supporters and recipients of home-based care on Tuesday in Harrisburg to lobby legislators for better pay for nurses and action to reduce a workforce shortage.

“Nine years ago I was in a car accident that changed my life,” Emily Brong, 25, said on the steps of the state capitol. “Now I need caregivers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bayada provides nurses 16 hours per day 7 days a week when they can find staff. I want to stay in my home and not go to a nursing home, because I want to be home with family.”

According to the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, including children with medically-complex needs, adults with disabilities, and seniors, are struggling to access the critical, life-sustaining care they need to remain safe, healthy, and independent in their homes and communities.

“Nearly everyone agrees that seniors and individuals with disabilities want – and deserve – to age in their homes and communities,” said Teri Henning, PHA chief executive officer. “In-home care costs less, is strongly preferred, and has better outcomes. Seniors over 65 are the fastest growing population in Pennsylvania – by far. Despite these facts, home care has been chronically underfunded, leading to widespread staffing shortages, agencies unable to accept patients or provide the full range of necessary care, and far too many patients and consumers who cannot get the care they so desperately need and deserve.”

Brong’s Story

Brong suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash and is now wheelchair bound.

Emily’s mother and brother both work full-time jobs and are unable to constantly care for her, which means if she did not have home care, she would be forced into a facility or nursing home.

She described a special relationship with each one of her nurses, including her primary nurse Tamie, who has been with her the entire time. The nurses, she said, help her with everything from basic living tasks to highly acute medical interventions, all the while supporting her to reach all of her goals, most recently being able to walk with only the assistance of one person.

When Emily was a child, her mother had to spend a lot of money out of pocket to privately pay for aides because she did not have care coverage from agencies. Still today, the Brongs have issues getting weekend hours covered, PHA officials said, because the pay isn’t there to give workers incentive.

Brong said Tuesday her nurses “need and deserve” more pay.

“The work they do makes it possible for me to improve and thrive,” Brong said. “Just last week I took 150 steps being assisted by one person. I am asking for increased reimbursement for home care so providers can pay my nurses more.”

Her trip to Harrisburg, she added, was on behalf of those people who cannot advocate for themselves.

“Nurses do incredible work and they keep me alive and in my own home,” Brong said. “I deserve my quality of life at home and do not want to rot away in a nursing home. I could be your 25-year-old granddaughter, daughter, sister, or cousin. As your friend, I am asking and begging you to keep me home.

Emily Brong, 25, of Palmerton, speaks Tuesday in Harrisburg in favor of better pay for home-based care nurses and action to reduce a workforce shortage. Holding the paper Brong is reading is her primary nurse Tamie Sturgis, of BAYADA Home Health Care. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO