Nursing home staffing regulations under fire

TALLAHASSEE — A new law passed in the last legislative session includes a change in staffing requirements for nursing homes some advocates say could lead to lower-quality care.

What’s more, these advocates believe the bill breaks a deal they had with the industry that set a minimum number of hours nursing home patients would have access to nurses.

Nursing homes counter that the changes will provide much needed flexibility in caring for the most medically needy patients.

The legislation — passed as House Bill 5301 — deals with a nuanced provision of the state’s law on nursing home staffing. Under current law, nursing homes are required each day to provide a minimum of 2.7 hours of care per patient by a certified nursing assistant and another hour by a licensed nurse. The law also mandates that over the course of a week each patient receive on average 2.9 hours of CNA care per day.

The new law would keep the daily minimum requirement of care, but change how the of hours could be split between a CNA and licensed nurse. Patients would still receive an average of 3.9 hours of care a day, but only 2.7 hours would have to come from a CNA. The remaining 1.2 hours could come from a licensed nurse.

Nursing homes say that change will allow them to provide for more medical care by licensed nurses in a state where nursing home patients tend to be more medically complex cases.

Critics of the change say that while patients might need more attention from licensed nurses, they also need the personal care provided by CNAs.