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Georgia Nursing Homes Say Minimum Staff Mandate 'Impossible'

Hands of the old man and a man hand on the white bed in a nursing home.

Georgia challenges federal order to set basic care standards and establish career pathways.

A recent federal mandate designed to elevate staffing levels and enhance care quality for residents in U.S. nursing homes has generated mixed reactions. While advocates applaud the initiative as an important step in addressing long-standing concerns about nursing home abuse and neglect, not everyone is on board.

Meeting the staffing requirements would be practically "impossible" due to financial constraints and workforce shortages, said the president of the Georgia Health Care Association, Chris Downing.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and other Republican governors sent a letter claiming that the mandate does not consider "the unique needs of facilities and the communities they serve." They are asking the President to reconsider. Whether the Biden Administration's order strikes the right balance of care is yet to be seen. But Georgia clearly needs to improve care standards and staffing levels at nursing homes and care facilities in the state. Staffing levels are closely linked to quality of care, and Georgia has one of the worst ratios of registered nurses per patient in the nation.

Nursing home mandate in Georgia

The staffing mandate is part of a larger executive order the Biden Administration issued earlier this year. In general, the order seeks to increase care access, raise wages for and retain direct care workers, help residents smoothly transition back home from nursing homes, and set minimum staffing levels for nursing aids and registered nurses, among other things.

Details of how the order will be enforced are in the works, but the effect could be severe for the 40,000 residents of Georgia's 357 long-term care facilities. According to estimates, less than 1 percent of Georgia's nursing homes meet all three components of the mandate's staffing standards. Critics suggest that facilities unable to hire enough staff will have to close, and their residents will be displaced. Advocates for better treatment of nursing home residents say the mandate creates much-needed accountability in the industry.

Nursing home mandate highlights

The nursing home mandate would take years to fully implement. Due to hiring challenges, urban communities would have two years, and rural communities would have five years to meet staffing standards. Overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and supported by a $150 billion earmark in the president's budget proposal, the Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers calls for the following actions:

  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is to propose a rule setting a federal minimum for staffing levels to stop nursing home owners from slashing staff to unsafe levels. The current recommendation is to require nursing facilities to have:
    • A Registered Nurse on site 24/7.
    • At least 0.55 hours (33 minutes) of Registered Nurse care per resident per day.
    • At least 2.45 hours (2 hours and 27 minutes) of care from nurse aides - who assist with tasks like eating, bathing, and going to the bathroom - per resident per day.
  • HHS to investigate nursing home performance, examining nursing home spending of taxpayer funds, inappropriate prescribing of antipsychotic medications, and emergency preparedness planning by facilities.
  • Launch a nursing careers pathway campaign that leverages $75 million in scholarships and tuition reimbursement to recruit, train, retain, and transition workers into nursing home careers.

Nursing homes have a legal duty to provide proper care

Nursing homes have a legal duty to provide residents with quality care and the assistance necessary to be comfortable. When they fail to meet an adequate level of service, residents are at increased risk of suffering harm. Studies show a connection between adequate staffing and fewer incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect.

If your loved one has harmed at a Georgia nursing home, our law firm can help you demand justice and accountability. Attorney George S. Johnson and his legal team can launch a thorough investigation, determine what happened, and fight to hold the facility accountable for the pain and suffering they caused.

To learn more, contact us today for a free and confidential case evaluation. There are no obligations, and at no cost to you, a member of our team can listen to the details of your situation, answer your questions, and give you a clear understanding of your potential legal options. Our office is located in Decatur, and we proudly serve clients throughout Atlanta and all of Georgia.

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