Pointing to a shortage of certified nursing assistants, a Senate panel Thursday, Feb. 10, gave initial approval to a proposal that would revise nursing-home staffing standards. The Senate Health Policy Committee voted 9-1 to approve the measure (SB 804), sponsored by Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula. The vote came two days after a similar bill (HB 1239) started moving forward in the House.
The most-controversial part of the measures would reduce a required minimum amount of time that certified nursing assistants spend providing care to residents. Certified nursing assistants play key roles in providing hands-on care in nursing homes. Current law requires certified nursing assistants to provide a minimum of 2.5 hours of direct care per resident per day. The bill would reduce that to 2 hours, while also making changes to factor in time spent by workers such as respiratory therapists, occupational therapists and mental-health specialists.
Lawmakers and the nursing-home industry said the proposed change stems, in part, from a shortage of workers and would provide flexibility. “The fact of the matter is there are no CNAs to hire out there,” said Jim Polaski, senior vice president of operations for Westminster Communities of Florida. But reducing the minimum hours of care by certified nursing assistants has drawn opposition from AARP Florida and the Service Employees International Union, which represents nursing-home workers. “When we’re taking away bedside care on a daily basis from our most vulnerable, that’s unconscionable,” said Zayne Smith, an AARP lobbyist.