April 18, 2024

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Free program aims to tackle home health-care needs on Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — In response to the growing need for home health-care workers on Staten Island amid the continuing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and vaccine mandates, a local non-profit will soon kick off its first virtual home health aide training program.

Staten Island Performing Provider System (PPS) received more than 200 responses to its initial outreach seeking enrollment for its free Certified Home Health Aide Training Program, taught by the City University of New York City College of Technology.

The program’s initial five-week class will begin the first week of November, and is comprised of 20 students, according to Joseph Conte, executive director of PPS.

Home health aides are traditionally supervised by medical practitioners, usually nurses, and may work with therapists and other medical staff. These aides keep records and report changes in the client’s condition to supervisors. They are often the only ones preserving the quality of life of their home-bound patients.

About a dozen Licensed Home Care Services Agencies and Certified Home Health Agencies employed nearly 7,000 home health-care aides on Staten Island prior to the Oct. 7 vaccine mandate, which caused staffs to shrink, managers said.

Conte said he anticipates the new program’s growth and continuance in filling this critical gap, though its initial enrollment period is currently closed. “We hope to run classes throughout 2022, and get up to 100 trained in that cycle,’’ he said.

Results will be twofold, he said.

Graduates will fill a gap in health care created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many care givers stopped work for personal reasons or sought a new career when vaccines became a requirement in the field in New York City. Additionally, the program will create sorely-needed jobs on Staten Island.

The program offers a high level of professionalism by including an expanded number of hours above the minimum requirements, said Mary Han, director of continuing care and quality management for PPS. In addition, all graduates will receive full professional attire, including a uniform, stethoscope and medical kit at their commencement, she said.

At the conclusion of the course, SafeHarbor Healthcare Services will be providing participants with a two-day, in-person skills training session.

Han said she learned a lot from speaking with the applicants.

“There are many who have a nursing degree from a different country, but no certification here,’’ she said. “Some are new immigrants, and many have lost their jobs due to COVID. The common theme among these discussions is the urgency to find employment after going through their own challenges.’’

Conte said that the majority of people responding to the program’s initial text outreach hail from the North Shore: 38 candidates from ZIP code 10304, 33 from 10301 and 27 from 10303.

“It’s all along the North Shore corridor,’’ he said. “I think we’re reaching a lot of individuals who have lost employment during COVID — individuals who have decided they wanted to switch careers into an entry level health-care role.’’

Conte said the entry-level jobs start people on a sturdy career ladder toward roles as licensed practical nurses, patient care associates in a hospital setting or certified nursing assistants in nursing homes.

“I think it really has the potential to fill hundreds of roles in the coming year or two, and that’s an important start,’’ Conte said.

In looking ahead, PPS representatives said they plan to work with the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Jewish Community Center in order to expand the program to meet the employment and health-care needs on the Island.

Though PPS has funding for initial classes thanks to Northwell Heath and other sources, it is currently working with FundRISING to obtain additional monetary support through the Apprenticeship State Expansion Grant of the New York State Department of Labor, Division of Employment and Workforce Solutions.