“Silver Tsumani:” the need for more licensed elderly care homes, and caregivers, in Hawaii

OAHU — Filipinos are now the largest ethnic group in the state of Hawaii — and when it comes to the healthcare industry, they dominate as well.

There are around 2,000 Filipino care home providers in Hawaii, and the majority are Filipinos. They take pride in taking care of the elderly and those with disabilities — and they don’t want anything to affect the work they do.

But a few years ago, licensed care home providers began noticing that they were not getting as many clients as they used to. And to think there are so many people needing care in the state.

State Representative John Mizuno explains, “It’s called a silver tsunami. By year 2020, one in four residents in the state of Hawaii will be 60 or older. Nevertheless, they’re healthier. They live longer. But we need places for the elderly to be at.”

So despite the demand, why are they getting fewer clients? Because there are now more care homes — and a number of them are operating illegally.

These unlicensed care homes could charge less and get more clients — even if they hire less caregivers, who not only end up over-worked, but may not even be qualified in the first place.

“We need regulation because — two words — consumer protection.”

Patient care was what licensed Filipino care providers, like Maria Azucena Etrata, had in mind when they approached Rep. Mizuno for help.

Etrata is one of the Filipino leaders behind the group – Primary Care Providers of Hawaii – and they knew they needed to save the industry and the hardworking Filipino care providers who abide by the law.

Their lobbying resulted in Mizuno introducing House Bill 1911 back in January, which: allows health officials the right of entry to investigate care homes reported for illegal operations, punishes violators with a misdemeanor citation and fines, and penalizes providers who knowingly refer or transfer patients to the unlicensed facilities.

Governor David Ige signed the bill into law recently — giving the Hawaii department of health the right of entry to investigate any care facilities that are reported for operating without a license.

Violators of the law may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and can face fines of $100 per day of the first violation and $1,000 for the third violation.

Additionally, the law penalizes providers who knowingly refer or transfer patients to the unlicensed facilities.

“Once they get a criminal misdemeanor, the department of health would then say, ‘you and your family can no longer be caregivers. You’re out,” says Mizuno.

Etrata says a number of the unlicensed care homes are operated by Filipinos. And while she understands that they need to make a living, she also insists no one is above the law, and that it’s time to make things right.

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