Florida House is ready to consider nursing home staffing changes

The Florida House may be on the verge of adopting a plan that would revamp staffing standards in nursing homes, as a debate continues over whether the changes would result in reduced care for residents.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted 15-5 on Wednesday to approve the proposal (HB 1239), which came as nursing homes say they are grappling with staffing shortages that, at least in some cases forced them to leave beds unused.

But the bill has drawn opposition from seniors’ advocacy group AARP, a union that represents nursing home workers and the state’s long-term care ombudsman, whose job it is to represent residents. nursing homes.

This opposition stems from a portion of the bill that would reduce the time required that certified practical nurses must devote to providing care to residents. Certified practical nurses provide many practical services in nursing homes, such as helping residents dress, go to the bathroom, and bathe.

The industry-backed bill would start taking into account the time spent by workers such as occupational therapists, respiratory therapists and mental health professionals. Godmother Lauren Melo, R-Naples, said the changes would provide more flexibility to meet residents’ needs.

“Today’s nursing home residents live with chronic illnesses and need (a) more modern menu of care to help reduce rehospitalizations, regain mobility, adopt functional skills, manage abilities and cognitive behaviors and improve outcomes,” Melo said. “All of these services require a variety of qualified specialists working alongside nurses and CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) to meet the needs of residents.”

But Michael Phillips, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, said certified nursing assistants provide 80% of care in nursing homes and play an important role in repositioning residents in bed and in the performing other duties to help prevent residents from suffering from pressure sores.

“I know there will be consequences to reducing that number of DACs on the floor. Those (residents who have pressure sores) will be the kinds of consequences,” Phillips said. “It will be the pain that will be inflicted if this bill passes.”

With Wednesday’s vote, the bill is ready for submission to the Plenary Assembly. The Senate also moved forward with a similar bill (SB 804), but it was put on hold Wednesday by the Senate Rules Committee.

Rules Chair Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said Senate Sponsor Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, continues to work on the bill, which is expected to go to committee next week.

Minimum staffing requirements have been debated in Florida for more than two decades. In 2001, lawmakers approved a measure setting standards, while taking steps to help protect nursing homes from lawsuits.

Current law requires certified practical nurses to provide a minimum of 2.5 hours of direct care per resident per day. The bill would reduce that to 2 hours.

Additionally, current law requires certified practical nurses and registered nurses to provide a weekly average of 3.6 hours of direct care per patient per day. The House bill would keep that average of 3.6 hours, but it would allow time spent by other types of workers, such as therapists, to be factored into the calculation.

Officials from the Service Employees International Union, which represents nursing home workers, said therapists and other types of workers are already providing services at facilities. As a result, they said factoring these workers into staffing requirements would not mean additional services for residents.

“You are reducing care if you vote for this bill,” Roxey Nelson, the union’s vice president, told House members.

But Melo said the hourly requirements are minimum amounts and nursing homes can exceed them. She also said the changes are designed to enhance the quality of life in the settlements.

“Today we focused on standards of care,” she said. “We should focus on quality of life.”

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