Wolf administration proposes update to nursing home regulations, increasing hours of direct care

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HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A historic announcement made Wednesday involving skilled nursing facilities across Pennsylvania.

While some leaders say it’s a good step, others are disappointed, saying it’s not enough. It’s a proposal to mandate more direct care for nursing home residents. A change that caregivers say so many seniors across the state would benefit from.

“For us as caregivers, it is very overwhelming,” long term car LPN Kim Jackson said.

For the first time in 25 years, the Wolf administration has proposed new regulations geared toward increasing the quality of care for residents and staff in skilled nursing facilities.

The proposal is to increase the minimum hours spent between staff and residents to a little more than four hours.

“We know that 4.1 can be done,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said.

Jackson says that time is crucial to residents.

“Some days I’d be handing out medication to my residents and then I would notice someone that had filthy long nails and no one has time to do that. There’s just no time to be able to do that,” Jackson said.

The current regulations are set at just under three hours and have not been updated since 1999.

Beam says this is an aggressive approach, but doable.

“Studies have shown this is the minimum level of care needed by nursing home residents to prevent such problems as bed sores, infections, malnutrition, dehydration, and injuries from falls,” Beam said.

An increase in wages was not addressed Wednesday. Earlier this week nursing homes across the state announced their plan to strike next week over staffing and wages.

Leading Age PA, an association representing more than 380 providers of services for seniors, says they are disappointed by this announcement. They issued the following statement, saying:

“Today’s announcement by the Wolf administration is disappointing, but hardly surprising given its record on Medicaid funding. In its own proposal, the Wolf administration discloses it’s not even sure of the implications but acknowledges nursing home providers will bear much of the cost at a time when everyone understands they can least afford to do so. Our members support best staffing practices and provide high-quality senior care, but a lack of state funding continues to stretch our resources to the very limit.”

Leading Age PA

As of now, those strikes are still planned for next Tuesday, including some in our area. About 1,500 caregivers are expected to participate.

This is not something that will take immediate effect. The regulations need to go through a review process. Secretary Beam says she hopes that happens by the end of 2022.

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