Nursing home residents could have the time spent with licensed nurses reduced by nearly three-quarters under a proposal filed by Sen. Ben Albritton.
Skilled nursing facilities currently are required to provide residents with 3.6 hours of licensed nursing care per day, of which 2.5 hours can be provided by a certified nursing assistant.
SB 804 would reduce the 3.6 hour nursing care requirement to 1 hour. And in lieu of the 2.5 hours of CNA care, Albritton’s bill would allow nursing home facilities to provide what is called 2.5 hours of “direct care,” instead.
AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson told Florida Politics Wednesday the bill all but removes the “nursing” requirement from Florida’s nursing homes, and his association opposes the measure.
“It significantly changes what the measures of staffing in nursing homes are in ways that we think are for the worse, not the better,” Johnson said.
The bill defines direct care providers as “individuals who, through interpersonal contact with residents or resident care management, provide care and services to allow residents to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being.”
Direct care providers can, under the bill, include licensed nurses but can also include an array of different therapists as well as the nursing home’s activities staff.
The bill also eliminates the punishment in current law for nursing homes that don’t meet the requirements. Nursing homes that fail to meet the staffing requirements for two consecutive days are currently banned from accepting new residents. The ban is lifted once the facility can meet the minimum staffing requirements for a six-day period.
Albritton’s bill eliminates the ban on accepting new residents and instead replaces it with a $1,000 fine. That also gives Johnson cause for concern.
“If you don’t have enough staff to care for people, you shouldn’t be bringing in more people,” Johnson said.
Albritton’s bill was published just two days after Florida Health Care Association CEO Emmett Reed said lawmakers may want to re-examine the minimum staffing mandates as staffing costs for nursing services increased by $300 million over the last year.
The bill also comes as the nursing home industry pushes the Florida Legislature to extend legal protections against COVID-19-related tort claims. The Legislature last year agreed to pass some far-reaching protections from COVID-19 claims to protect businesses from general liability claims.
Signed into law by Gov Ron DeSantis, the bill also provided nursing homes with protections from lawsuits alleging they violated residents’ rights as well as medical malpractice protections for physicians and hospitals. But those protections expire March 2022 unless lawmakers agree to pass legislation extending them.