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DOS requests funding to address Delaware Veterans Home nursing shortage

Delaware Public Media

Gov. Carney’s FY25 budget recommends around $130,000 of the $230,000 requested by the Department of State (DOS) to address staffing shortages at the Veterans Nursing Home.

Secretary of State Jeffery Bullock says staffing at the Delaware Veterans Home is no better, and perhaps worse than last year.

The home has 115 authorized nursing positions and only 37 of those are currently filled. Bullock says in order to fill the vacant positions, they are hiring CNAs from temp agencies, which is more expensive.

The secretary notes there are salary incentives that bring the Veterans Home CNA positions to around $40,000, but nursing assistants can make over $50,000 at nearby temp agencies.

Bullock says the state is paying close to $80,000 to hire CNAs from the temp agencies with the additional costs of premiums.

Joint Finance Committee Chair State Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover) says the nursing pay system needs an entire restructuring.

“We’ve got to do something different in terms of how we pay that staff down there because we’ve been having the same conversation now for four or five years that I’ve been on this committee, and we need to start coming up with some better ideas of how we’re going to pay them.”

Bullock says although it goes against the grain of the state’s HR system, making the home a part of the private sector may be the solution.

“I think the answer might be – the private sector is the way to go here, if you’re going to be competitive, or you’re just going to have to pay what the real market cost is," Bullock says.

Members of the Joint Finance Committee largely agreed they want to find a new approach in making these nursing salaries competitive for the upcoming fiscal year.

DOS is also requesting around an $800,000 increase in budget operating costs for the Veterans Home. The home's current budget is $20.7 million.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.