By Agustin Duran
The pending closure of hundreds of ADHC facilities in California may destroy an important health program that might not be possible to re-instate later. Besides the affected sick seniors and disabled persons, thousands of caregivers are expected to lose jobs that may not return and many health business operators would have to leave the industry during this economic crisis.
Read this story IN SPANISH: Riesgo en salud y pérdidas de empleos a consecuencia de los recortes en Medi-Cal en Ca. »
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Zarine Tarayan, program director of Felices Dias (Happy Days), Adult Day Health Care Center in South Los Angeles, is not happy these days. Ever since she found out that the state’s budget crisis may force the center to close its doors, she’s been worrying not only about the health of the more than 100 seniors they serve, but about 25 employees who have families to support and work for the center.
“What worries me the most is the safety of the elderly because we know that many will not survive long without proper care in their homes.” Tarayan said. “But at the same time I worry about my employees and their families because everyone will be affected, not only them.”
With the shut-down of the Medi-Cal Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) program scheduled for December 1, not only will the health of more than 38,000 elderly and disabled people be affected, but more than 6,000 Californians could be thrown out of work, increasing the unemployment lines right before the Christmas holiday season. In California, there are about 310 adult day care centers with at least 20 employed staff members each.
Despite her credentials and master’s degree in psychology, Tarayan is worried for herself, too, because she has four children to feed and is the only one who takes care of them.
“I never thought we could be in this situation. Not in America”, explained the director, who emphasized that it does not seem to matter how educated people may be; to get a job now is a challenge for everyone.
Among the professionals and employees of the center who could be out of work are psychologists, therapists, drivers, certified nurses, social workers and those in the area of service.
A federal district court has scheduled a hearing on the ADHC center closures for early November.
According to the Employment Development Department (EDD) of California, in recent months the state has lost 17,500 jobs in the areas of health, construction, government, and education.
Once Josefina Lopez, director of Happy Days activities, realized how poor the job situation was in the state, she too worried about how she’ll make it because, like Tarayan, she doesn’t have anyone to help support her and her four kids.
“We are all wondering what we are going to do,” said Lopez. “Not only for the safety of the nearly 100 elderly people we care for daily, but because of the unemployment benefits. It would be hard to survive because they just give you a percentage of what your salary is.”
EDD offers people a maximum of $450 per week no matter how much they made at their last job. The money is available for six months and may be extended if people have not found employment.
David Shulman, senior economist at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), indicated that nationally, things do not look favorable.
“Recession or not, the employment situation remains horrible,” he said. “Job growth has stalled and we forecast that the unemployment rate will soon rise to 9.5%. Thus, even by the end of 2013 we will not be back to the unemployment levels of late 2007.”
In California, Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at UCLA, indicated that the state forecast sees virtually no job creation momentum, with employment growth of 0.7% and 2.1% expected in 2012 and ’13, respectively.
Mark Atallah, a social worker at the center who could be laid off in December, is more optimistic than the experts. Despite having a mother to care for, a $1,800 apartment rent, car insurance and other expenses to cover, he prays and hopes the economy will improve soon.
However, what he can’t understand is how the elderly, who gave everything in their time and now are among the most vulnerable, are going to be left on their own.
“In my case, I pray for myself and my colleagues for something good to happen, but for whom I pray more is for my patients,” he said. “I am convinced that with the closure of these centers, the only thing you will do is hasten death and arrival at the emergency room or nursing homes for many elderly.”