State finances risking patient safety?

Illinois Capitol News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Some in the disabled community continue to sound the alarm on a policy they say needs to go.

Since last year, at-home caregivers have been forced to limit their overtime to 45-hours per week. But, disability advocates say it’s just not enough.

They want the time extended to keep those they care for safe. Ironically, the rule was put into effect for safety reasons.

A Department of Human Services spokesperson says it’s believed, like any other job, it’s unsafe to have someone working long hours. But, make no mistake, this was also a money-saving policy change.

DHS says the taxpayer-funded home service program was costing the state roughly $900,000 a month. Since the cap was put in place last August, the taxpayers have saved roughly $4.8 million.

At a press conference held Monday, disability advocates argued the state is prioritizing money over human lives. They say quality care for patients has been sacrificed.

Depending on a patient’s condition, workers can apply for an exemption to the rule, allowing them to work more overtime hours. DHS says they’ve received almost 800 requests. About 60% are approved.

Right now, workers who violate the law could face suspension or termination. Representatives from the healthcare union SEIU say more than 4,000 caregivers have received “disciplinary occurrences” under the policy and 500 are threatened with suspension. DHS says no one is suspended at this time.

Last year, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a measure which would have allowed caregivers to work 55 hours each week. Lawmakers did not try to override the veto. Democrats plan to push the proposal again next session.

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