Aging Committee Co-Chair Garibay Questions Private Equity Ownership of Nursing Homes, Praises Bipartisan Cooperation

State Rep. Jane Garibay, D-Windsor (CT Examiner)


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HARTFORD – With the goal of helping seniors and making their lives in assisted and elder care facilities more manageable and compassionate, Aging Committee Co-Chair State Rep. Jane Garibay, D-Windsor, said the panel had a successful 2023 session as bills dealing with transparency in elder facilities became law.

“We have to take care of our elderly; they are not disposable,” Garibay told CT Examiner from her offices at the Legislative Office Building on Friday.

Garibay said she’s fortunate to have a 16-member committee where Republicans and Democrats work together to bring forward issues important to the ever-growing senior population in the state.

Garibay said House Bill 5781 – signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont in June – was comprehensive on many fronts. That bill requires nursing homes to notify the long-term care ombudsman about any involuntary transfers or discharges on the same day the resident is notified; establishes a dementia services coordinator position within the Department of Aging and Disability Services; and requires nursing homes to annually submit summaries of their financials including the percentages of Medicaid funding. It also requires nursing homes to provide cost reports for any related party that receives money from the nursing home.

Garibay told CT Examiner that many out-of-state equity firms are purchasing nursing and elder care facilities. She said those firms then claim they do not have enough money to spend on workers and for care. It’s a pattern that needs to be scrutinized, said Garibay.

“Where is the money going? That is what we need to find out,” said Garibay, though she emphasized that she was not claiming criminal wrongdoing on the part of the facilities.

“These nursing homes are saying they can’t pay their workers more than the $15.69 an hour minimum wage and they can’t pay medical benefits,” she said. “And, so, when we do not hire the appropriate amount of people to take care of our residents, it hurts. It hurts the workers because they are overworked. I saw one case where one CNA had to cover 80 residents for an eight hour period.”

Garibay said she estimates she has visited “dozens” of elder care facilities since being named committee co-chair in 2021.

Garibay said she comes from a business background and understands the needs to make a profit, but also says those in the care of management must be cared for properly.

“I believe in business and I believe in small business,” Garibay said. “But, you have to care for the people you are charged with taking care of.”

Garibay said that – with regards to the 2024 short session – she’d like to see funding allocated to expand the ombudsman programs.

Currently, Garibay said, there are five ombudsmen for nursing homes in the state and one for home care. Garibay said she’d like one more ombudsman for nursing homes and two more for home care.

“The ombudsman does immediate response when there is a complaint and they work with DPH [Department of Public Health] so they can help the state make corrective measures,” she said.

Problems or complaints, she said, can range from extreme bedsores to mold to more severe issues of patient neglect.

Garibay said, if it was up to her and she had her way, she’d redesign housing for the elderly on a more European model. “There are countries that have facilities in what are like little villages; they are not big institutions.”

Gairbay said, generally speaking, she works well with the five Republicans on the committee and has a cordial working relationship with the governor and his staff.

“I think we have a good group of people that pull together and work well,” she said. “Good ideas are good ideas regardless of party.”

Working in a bipartisan fashion was echoed by Aging Committee State Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, the panel’s ranking member 

“This is the most bipartisan committee that I have ever worked on,” Bolinsky told CT Examiner. “We work toward compromise because we all have common goals here.”

Bolinsky had only praise for Garibay.

“Working with Jane is an absolute pleasure,” he said. “She is somebody who is very pure of heart and straightforward. Jane is someone who spends literally the day and night pondering how to make the lives of our seniors better. She visits nursing homes, assisted livings, and all kinds of support facilities all over the state because she wants to see everything in person. She is tremendously relevant and has her thumb on the pulse of what is going on.”

Robert Storace

Robert Storace is a veteran reporter with stints at New Britain Herald, the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post, Hartford Business Journal and the Connecticut Law Tribune. Storace covers the State Capitol for CT Examiner. T: 203 437 5950