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Injury Perils of Nursing Home Workers

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A nursing home employee in New York is more likely to get hurt on the job than a firefighter, a cop or a construction worker, federal statistics show.

A whopping 187 nursing homes across the state made the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration list of employers with excessive injury rates in 2002, making it the top industry in which workers are most likely to get hurt.

Nursing homes produce more injuries than other workplaces because nurses and other staff often throw out their backs moving incapacitated patients while administering care, said Nancy Webber, spokeswoman for the New York State Nurses Association.

"The types of injuries nurses in long-term care experience are related to not having the right equipment to lift patients or not having enough staff to be able to call for help," Webber said.

"We're concerned about understaffing in nursing homes because workplace injuries are a byproduct of not having enough staff."

A nurse's aide at the Brookhaven Rehabilitation Center in Far Rockaway threw her back out Tuesday trying to move an overweight patient from a bed to a wheelchair.

"We get hurt because we work with obese patients in cramped rooms," said the 35-year-old aide, who requested anonymity. The injury was her second in 15 years, she said.

Paulina Dompereh, 42, went out on disability four years ago after hurting her back moving a patient from a bed to a chair at the Daughters of Jacob nursing home in The Bronx.

"When I moved the patient, I heard a crack in my back," said Dompereh, who has not been able to return to work. "The doctor said I will be this way for life, taking painkillers every day."

Dompereh blamed understaffing for her injury.

"They give you too many patients: 12, 13, 14 at a time," she said. "So if you call somebody to help move a patient, they're too busy, and you end up doing it yourself."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.


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