Governor Tom Wolf and nursing homes agree to increase staff

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Nursing home trade associations said Monday they had reached an agreement to increase staffing levels at the facilities as well as legislation recently signed by Gov. Tom Wolf to increase the helping an industry ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and struggling with high employee turnover.

As Pennsylvania is awash in excess tax revenue, Wolf on Monday signed legislation authorizing nearly $300 million a year in additional Medicaid reimbursements for nursing homes, or nearly 20% more.

That followed trade associations reaching a compromise on staffing levels with the Wolf administration and SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, a union that represents about 5,000 nursing home workers.

“This is a big step forward for Pennsylvania’s long-term care industry,” Wolf said at a Capitol press conference after signing the legislation.

Officials say the money is expected to boost worker salaries, staffing levels and retention while stabilizing facility finances and improving the quality of care.

The Medicaid reimbursement rate increase is the first in nearly a decade in a state with one of the largest nursing home populations, trade associations said.

Professional associations had been pushing for higher rates, saying some facilities were closing or downsizing because they were losing money on every resident covered by Medicaid.

But they also fought Wolf’s initial proposal last year to force them to increase direct care hours by 50%.

The agreement provides for a modest increase in direct care hours – from 2.7 to 2.87 per patient per day – but sets minimum shift ratios for nurses and nursing assistants to patients.

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