The Agency for Health Care Administration announced Wednesday it is moving forward with a regulation that lays the groundwork for the use of personal care attendants in Florida nursing homes, and it will hold a meeting on the proposal in Tallahassee on Oct. 29.
The agency has not published a copy of the proposed regulation.
The announcement comes after AHCA Deputy Secretary for Quality Assurance Kim Smoak told members of a House health care panel that, barring any challenges, the agency thinks the rules can be finalized by the end of the year. Until then, the temporary program put into effect by former AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew, remains in effect.
House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee member Rep. Sam Garrison asked Smoak about the “scope” of the proposed rules and whether the agency anticipated any challenges.
“This was a very important bill that we’ve received a lot of good feedback on, from both the profit and not-for-profit, the secular and faith-based. Across the board, the providers are saying this is very helpful to them,” Garrison said. “But the devil’s always in the details.”
Smoak assured Garrison the agency would work with the various associations on the rules in hopes of avoiding any kind of challenge.
“Our hope is in working together with our association’s stakeholder and other interested parties we’ll be able to move forward very aggressively and get this rule into place,” Smoak said at the Sept. 22 meeting. At the behest of the nursing home industry, Mayhew in April 2020 approved a temporary personal care attendant program under emergency authority stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the program was to provide nursing homes with additional staff to care for their residents and to eventually grow the size of the state’s long-term care workforce.
Under the AHCA program, a person could work in a nursing home for up to four months assisting with direct care services after taking an eight-hour training course. The personal care attendant would be required to be directly supervised by nursing staff.
The Florida Legislature passed HB 485 during the 2021 Legislative Session, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law. Lawmakers upped the number of training hours from eight to 16 that a PCA candidate had to take before working.
Committee member Rep. Christine Hunschofsky criricized Smoak during the meeting for not knowing the number of personal care attendants who have worked in Florida nursing homes in the last 18 months.