NURSING HOME REFORM: Davis Signs Regulatory Measure
To improve California nursing homes' safety and oversight, Gov. Gray Davis (D) yesterday signed "long-debated" legislation that increases regulation of the state's 1,600 skilled nursing facilities, the Ventura County Star reports. Davis said, "We owe a debt of gratitude to those who laid the groundwork for our great fortune, who fought wars, endured hardships ... Today, it's not enough that older Californians are living longer lives. They deserve to live better lives" (Matthews, 9/15). Sponsored by Assembly member Kevin Shelley (D-San Francisco), the legislation raises minimum fines for the most serious violations, such as those that lead to a patient's death, from $5,000 to $25,000 -$100,000. Under the new law, less serious violations will incur minimum fines of $2,000-$20,000, up from $1,000. Facilities that pay fines promptly -- now within 30 days -- receive a 35% reduction. The new law also requires the Department of Health Services to investigate suspected violations within five days and cases that involve the threat of imminent death or serious injury within 24 hours.
What About More Staff?
Davis had vetoed similar legislation last year because it would have required facilities to boost staffing levels (Coleman, AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/15). While the new law calls for the health department to study and make recommendations this spring on the staffing issue, nursing home reform advocates were dismayed that the law does not require facilities to hire more staff. Pat McGinnis, executive director of the San Francisco-based California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said, "There's a lot of good things in there in terms of enforcement, consumer information, residents' rights. [But] how many studies do we need to know that we're understaffed?" Currently, 120,000 nurses care for about 250,000 nursing home patients (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 9/15).
Davis Signs More Legislation
Davis also signed other elder care bills yesterday, including provisions to improve geriatric education at the University of California campuses and to require nursing homes that advertise specialization in Alzheimer's to have specially trained staff. The state budget includes $371 million for elder care, providing funding for increased staff training, facility improvements and tax credits for long term care (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/15).