STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin to protect the health care of Rhode Islanders by setting standards for nursing home care.

The Senate gave its approval to the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act (2020-S 2519), which is meant to address an ongoing crisis in nursing home staffing that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation will establish a minimum standard of 4.1 hours of resident care per day, the federal recommendation for quality care and long endorsed by experts including the American Nurses Association, the Coalition of Geriatric Nursing Organizations, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. The bill has been backed by Raise the Bar on Resident Care, a coalition of advocates for patient care.

Rhode Island ranks 42nd in the nation in the number of the average hours of care nursing home residents receive, according to recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Rhode Island is the only New England state with no minimum staffing requirements in our nursing homes.

“There is a resident care crisis in our state. Staffing shortages and low wages leads to seniors and people with disabilities not receiving the care they desperately need. The pandemic, of course, has 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).

The bill will also secure funding to raise wages for 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/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 will be forwarded to the House, where Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence), is sponsoring companion legislation (2020-H 7624).

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