The eyes of American families across the country are currently on Florida. Nurse staffing standards protect vulnerable seniors in nursing homes who rely on and deserve high-quality care.
But all that will change if the governor. Ron DeSantis does not veto HB 1239.
It is no secret that there is a direct correlation between the quality of resident care and the levels of nursing staff in nursing homes. However, right now, legislation is on its way to DeSantis that will lower standards for Florida nurses, take nursing out of nursing homes, and put our loved ones at risk. HB 1239 will reduce nursing care by 20% – from 2.5 hours per day of certified nursing care (CNA) per resident to just 2.0 hours.
What do these numbers mean for seniors who need quality care from qualified nursing professionals? This means nursing home residents will, among other things, sit longer in soiled clothing, turn or reposition less frequently, and not take medication or eat in a timely manner. These problems can lead to sepsis, urinary tract infections, pressure or bedsores, cognitive decline, or even death.
HB 1239 would also redefine direct nursing care, replacing CNA staffing hours with workers who are not trained to provide bedside care. Dietetics, therapeutics and mental health professionals provide intensive care, but they do not change diapers, bathe or move patients to prevent pressure sores, as CNAs do. In the interests of our loved ones, their quality of life and their dignity, and of the caregivers responsible for this demanding work, reducing the number of CNA employees to support these activities of daily living cannot and will not should not happen.
Beyond the immediate impact of this legislation on some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents, HB 1239 makes no sense on various levels as we look to the future. For example, we know that residents of nursing homes today have difficult health needs, such as dementia. CNAs are an essential, yet undervalued, part of the long-term care industry in Florida and across the country. Going forward, the last thing CNAs need is less time to do their job, less time to give a frail elderly person the dignity of a clean diaper.
The nursing home industry continues to attribute care quality issues to a labor shortage. However, if Florida reduces minimum nursing staff levels, nursing homes will have even fewer CNAs to provide care to the same number of residents, likely exacerbating burnout and staff turnover in years to come. .
There are many ways to address the labor shortages facing nursing homes without lowering nurse staffing standards. Unfortunately, the nursing home industry repeatedly expresses no interest in alternative solutions; he focuses on lowering nurse staffing standards as a simple and quick fix to his root problems. Florida nursing home residents and their families deserve better than HB 1239.
Last year, DeSantis made his position clear, saying, “To our elders, we will continue to put you first.”
AARP urges the governor to veto HB 1239.
In doing so, he will send a signal to seniors and their families in Florida and across the country that he will continue to protect them when they are most vulnerable and provide them with the dignity that America’s seniors deserve.
Nancy Lea Mond is Executive Vice President and Director of Advocacy at AARP.