A higher standard: General Assembly can impose staffing levels in nursing homes


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Covid-19 crisis has revealed serious concerns about staffing shortages, poor infection control and neglect inside Virginia nursing facilities.

Now a Internal invoice presented by delegate Betsey Carr – (D) 69and District – would establish minimum hourly staffing standards. Virginia is one of 18 states that does not require nursing homes to have a minimum number of staff hours per resident.

Chesterfield resident Joanna Heiskill believes the lack of staff and training at a Richmond care home cost her mother her life: “She needed medicine which she was screaming for.

Tracey Pompey’s father went to a local nursing facility for his rehabilitation. He never came home.

“Staffing that night, there wasn’t a lot of staff,” Pompey said.

The two women started the group Justice and Change for Nursing Home Victims installations and both support HB 646.

“For too long, it’s been totally ignored,” Heiskill said.

If passed, the bill would require 2.8 hours of direct care provided by a practical nurse per resident, at least 1.3 hours of a registered nurse per resident and a minimum of 0.75 hours on a total 4.1 required direct hours provided by a registered nurse per resident, per day.

“We appreciate the minimum because there has to be something in place,” Pompey said.

The Virginia Health Care Association
opposes staffing mandates.

“We know the workforce isn’t there to meet the staffing requirements set out in the bill,” said Amy Hewett, VHCA’s vice president of strategy and communications.

She says a recent workforce survey shows that 96% of nursing facilities in Virginia have vacancies for certified health care aides.

“There was just an exodus of employees,” Hewett said.

Still, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services consider 2.8 hours of certified nursing care the standard for safety. Currently there are more than 100 Virginia Facilities on National Watch List for causing harm to patients.

Hewett says that to ensure safety, many nursing homes are now limiting new admissions. She said the real problem is money, “What we really need is more funding in the Medicaid program so facilities can increase their staff.”

Tracey Pompey, who has been a nursing assistant for 30 years, says she’s not buying this – because she claims that every time her facility hears the inspectors are coming, they’ll suddenly be full.

Pompey and Heiskill would also like to see legislation dealing with staff training. The two say they contacted all 100 delegates for help with care home issues and only six responded.


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