Assembly OKs Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act
STATE HOUSE – With final votes in the Senate today, the General Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and Rep. Scott A. Slater to protect the health care of Rhode Islanders by setting standards for nursing home care. The legislation now heads to the governor’s office.
“There is a resident care crisis in our state. Staffing shortages and low wages lead to seniors and people with disabilities not receiving the care they desperately need. The pandemic, of course, exponentially increased the demands of the job, and exacerbated patients’ needs. We must confront this problem head-on before our nursing home system collapses,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).
Said Representative Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), “This bill is about getting our nursing home patients the quality care that they need and deserve. Our nursing home system was already facing enormous challenges and problems before COVID-19 and the pandemic has only made these issues much worse. In order for our patients to be treated and cared for properly, these changes to the law must be made.”
The legislation will establish a minimum standard of 3.58 hours of resident care per day by Jan. 1, 2022. Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, 3.81 hours of resident care per day would be required.
Rhode Island ranks 41st in the nation in the number of the average hours of care nursing home residents receive, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Rhode Island has one of the lowest average resident-care hours per day of any New England state.
The bill will also secure funding to raise wages for direct caregivers to recruit and retain a stable and qualified workforce. Short staffing drives high turnover in nursing homes. Not only does high turnover create undue stress and burnout for remaining staff, it diverts valuable resources to recruit, orient and train new employees and increases reliance on overtime and agency staff. Low wages are a significant driver of the staffing crisis. The median wage for a CNA in Rhode Island is less than $15, and $1 per hour lower than the median wage in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The legislation will also invest in needed training and skills enhancement for caregivers to provide care for patients with increasing acuity and complex health care needs.
The bill has been backed by Raise the Bar on Resident Care, a coalition of advocates for patient care.
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