House committee advances bill addressing nursing home staff shortage

nursing homes
Proponents describe it as a necessary modernization of current regulations.

The House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee on Tuesday voted to advance a bill aimed at alleviating the staffing shortage at nursing homes after hearing from numerous groups who warned nursing homes closures were on the horizon if lawmakers don’t act.

Sponsored by Naples Republican Rep. Lauren Melo, HB 1239 would allow nursing homes to meet current and future needs by allowing staff without nursing degrees to fulfill a portion of direct care hour requirements.

Proponents of the bill describe it as a necessary modernization of current regulations and assert that it would provide nursing home residents with more personalized care, including physical rehabilitation, mental health services, spiritual services, counseling and other treatments.

Florida nursing homes 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 (CNA).

The House bill changes the mandated 3.6 hours of “nursing” care into a requirement that the facilities provide 3.8 hours of direct services care. The House bill keeps a 1-hour requirement for licensed nursing care but reduces the 2.5-hour CNA mandate to 1.8 hours instead.

“The House Bill is not about reducing the direct care hours; we want to improve our staffing to provide the care that our residents need. The patient-centered care, the holistic care, mind and soul,” said Amina Dubuisson, vice president of clinical services at Ventura Services.

“While the need for the hands-on nursing or CNA’s care will never go away, the need for using this specialized staff to meet the direct care needs of each resident is critical to improving outcomes. HB 1239 will help improve the quality because it gives us the ability to focus on staffing for the individual needs of the resident,” said Peggy Norris, Regional Clinical Care Consultant at Signature Healthcare.

The legislation does face some opposition, most notably from AARP Florida.

During the committee hearing, supporters said that the current law — which has been in place for 20 years — is in dire need of an update and asserted that the bill would allow for resident-centered care rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Patient-centered care is what we should be striving for and all patients have different needs … so I think now is a critical time to address workforce issues but also address these patients’ specific needs,” Tampa Republican Rep. Traci Koster said in support of the bill.

The Senate is considering a similar bill (SB 804) sponsored by Sen. Ben Albritton. The proposed legislation touts strict standards to ensure the availability of high-quality care from board-certified and credentialed health care professionals.

Staff Reports


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