Nursing home staffing bill gets a major overhaul in Florida Senate
A controversial Florida bill that would have dropped the required hours for certified nursing assistants in nursing homes was overhauled Thursday and won support from lawyers who represent the residents.
Senate Bill 804, which aims to address a critical staffing shortage, sailed through the Senate Health Policy Committee on a 9-to-1 vote.
The amended version of the bill reduces -- but does not eliminate -- the care that residents must get from certified nursing assistants. Those nursing hours would drop from 2 1/2 to 2 hours a day.
CNA's are the health care workers who provide hands-on help day in and day out to nursing home residents.
GOP Sen. Ben Albritton of Hardee County says the new version has rules to keep nursing homes accountable and won't let them skirt civil judgements by changing ownership.
He says both the lawyers representing people who sue nursing homes and the industry itself have signed on.
But he acknowledges that union workers with SEIU 1199 and some advocates for seniors aren't part of that consensus.
"AARP, I can't expect you to say, hey, we're all on board for lowering standards," he said during the hearing. "I get it, right? We all get it. This is a balance."
Speaking for the union, lobbyist Tanya Jackson says that, after Florida imposed staffing standards in 2001, nursing homes being cited for causing serious harm dropped from 21 percent to fewer than 6 percent.
"Senators," she said, "if you pass this legislation, with the drop in the staffing standard from 2.5 to 2.0, I will be back here talking to you about those deficiencies of serious harm and how they've gone back up."
The Republican bill won support from some Democrats, like Sen. Lauren Book of Broward County, who says nursing home beds can be hard to find.
"In a lot of these places," she said, "there's nowhere for grandma to go. There's not enough CNA's out there. And so we need to really look at different ways of addressing those things. And we don't want to have anybody harmed by what we're doing."
The Senate is also considering a spending plan raising nursing home pay to at least $15 an hour.