During Assembly Hearing, WHCA/WiCAL Staff and Members Testify in Support of CNA Training Bill

John Vander Meer and Jackie Strader testify on AB 432.

During a public hearing of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care on Tuesday, representatives of WHCA/WiCAL joined many other providers and LTC stakeholders to voice their support for Assembly Bill 432, legislation which would align Wisconsin’s CNA hourly training requirements with the federal standard of 75 hours.

Testifying on behalf of WHCA/WiCAL and Wisconsin’s long-term care provider community were Executive Director John Vander Meer and Director of Quality Advancement and Regulatory Affairs Jackie Strader; Park Manor Administrator Deb Klatkiewicz and Park Manor DON Heidi Prellwitz; Ingleside Manor Administrator Donna Kruchten; and RPHF Corp. Vice President of Clinical Services Shellie Sonnentag.

In addition to the in-person testimony presented by WHCA/WiCAL staff and members, WHCA/WiCAL submitted written testimony from Dale Anderson, Administrator of Pepin Manor, as well as a letter from LTC administrators from provider facilities within committee members’ districts. See the letter here.

The hearing on AB-432 began with testimony from bill author Rep. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, who discussed his own conversations with providers along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. Petryk¬† said that he believed the bill will help providers address the long-term caregiver workforce shortage by removing a current barrier to employment, as many potential CNA candidates may not be able to afford the additional cost and time to meet Wisconsin’s additional required hours of training.

Rep. Warren Petryk, author of AB-432, testifies before the committee.

AB-432’s senate author, Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) was unable to attend the hearing as she was participating in a meeting of the Joint Finance Committee. Sen. Harsdorf submitted written testimony which underlined the importance of removing a competitive disadvantage for providers seeking nurse aides in Wisconsin.

In their joint testimony, Vander Meer and Strader discussed the context of the long-term care workforce crisis and the¬† need to begin addressing the crisis immediately. Vander Meer noted that this bill, together with the Joint Finance Committee’s efforts to increase SNF Medicaid reimbursement by 2% in the state budget, helps to address the workforce crisis. Strader, speaking from a Quality perspective, noted that providers need more CNAs in the workforce, and as more CNAs are able to work on the facility floor, the higher care quality will become. See a copy of their joint written testimony here.

Heidi Prellwitz and Deb Klatkiewicz testifying on AB-432.

Klatkiewicz and Prellwitz discussed their experience working at a facility in northern Wisconsin, where they face workforce challenges as a result of a limited workforce, as well as competition from Michigan, which has adopted the 75-hour training requirement.

Sonnentag discussed the challenges facing providers along the Wisconsin-Minnesota state line. She pointed out that while Wisconsin may dominate Minnesota in the NFC North, Minnesota is currently winning the border battle when it comes to attracting CNAs, and discussed her own experience having to turn away seasoned CNAs from Minnesota because they don’t meet Wisconsin’s training requirements.

Kruchten provided insight based on her experience as an administrator for a facility which runs its own CNA training course, including the difficulty of finding enough candidates to run the program and the financial costs involved in paying for CNA candidates to attend in an effort to increase the number of interested individuals.

Shellie Sonnentag and Donna Kruchten testify in favor of AB-432.

The bill was largely met with support from Committee members. Both the committee chairman, Rep. Tom Weatherston, and the vice-chairman, Rep. Warren Petryk, are co-sponsors of the bill. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Beth Meyers, is also a co-sponsor, as is committee member Kathy Bernier. And by the end of the hearing, the bill had earned two more co-sponsors – committee members Rep. John Macco and Rep. Jesse Kremer.

WHCA/WiCAL thanks all who were able to appear before the committee to testify or who were able to make their voices heard in another way. We will continue to update members on the progress of the CNA training bill as it works through the legislative process.