RI Gov. Delays New Minimum Staffing Rules For Nursing Homes

·3 min read

PROVIDENCE, RI — As Rhode Island continues to grapple with a health care system strained to the brink by the latest COVID-19 surge, Gov. Dan McKee took action last week to delay new minimum staffing requirements at nursing homes and other skilled nursing facilities.

During the last legislative session, McKee signed the new Nursing Staffing and Quality Care Act into law. The legislation, which was set to go into effect this month, requires that facilities provide at least 3.58 hours of resident care per day. In 2023, the requirement will rise to 3.81 hours per day.

On Friday, the governor signed an executive order suspending these new requirements until at least Feb. 14, citing concerns that health care facilities will be forced to reduce capacity to be able to meet the new requirements while dealing with ongoing staffing shortages.

"In the current environment of critical staffing shortages, the only means by which nursing facilities can maintain the staff to resident ratio necessary to meet the required minimum hours of direct care to residents is to reduce the number of residents residing in the facility, which results in important healthcare resources being taken offline from the continuum of care needed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the State of Rhode Island," the order read in part.

The decision comes after Rhode Island Health Care Association and LeadingAge Rhode Island, which together represent 75 of the 80 nursing homes in the state, called for the governor to allow facilities an extension to the new staffing requirements.

John Gage, the president of the Health Care Association, said it would be "impossible for our homes to meet these new requirements" given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, employee burn out and reimbursements for facilities.

"As much as we all desire to have a full complement of staff, the applicants simply do not currently exist to meet these new requirements," Gage said previously. "The resultant actions that nursing homes would have to take, such as further reducing or limiting admissions from area hospitals, will tax an already overburdened hospital system. These actions will be necessary for the homes to avoid crippling fines and to prevent certain closures."

Patrick Quinn, a spokesperson for SEIU 1199 New England, said at the time that more support and better standards are "the only way to turn the corner on Rhode Island's nursing home staffing crisis." The union is a member of Raise the Bar on Resident Care Coalition, an advocacy group that pushed for the legislation.

"The Nursing Staffing and Quality Care Act ensures that increased Medicaid funding is spent where it should be — on safe staffing for residents and higher wages to recruit and retain qualified caregivers," Quinn said in a statement. "Now is the time to make fundamental changes in the long term care system; that starts with demanding greater accountability for how the nursing home industry spends public dollars."

This article originally appeared on the Cranston Patch

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