Nursing Home Staffing Bill Draws Support and Criticism
Senior groups, nursing home workers and nursing facility operators are squaring off on a new bill (AB 1075) that would impose "strict" staffing levels at nursing homes, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The bill, proposed by Assembly member Kevin Shelley (D-San Francisco), would replace the current system, which specifies a certain number of nursing hours per patient, with a new measure that would limit the number of patients a nursing assistant could care for per shift. A coalition including members of the Gray Panthers, the Older Women's League, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, the Congress of California Seniors and the National Senior Citizens Law Center, backs the legislation. Isobel White, a coalition spokesperson, said that staffing levels at nursing homes are "horrendously low," adding that there is a "direct correlation between staffing levels and quality of care." However, some members of the nursing home industry say that low salary levels, not staff-patient ratios, are the real problem underlying the difficulties at nursing homes. Betsy Hite, a spokesperson for the California Association of Health Facilities, which represents the state's for-profit nursing homes, said, "We are 30,000 caregivers short right now. We believe the way to correct that is to pay our workers a respectable wage. We don't think bodies will come if you just increase the staffing level." She emphasized the need for additional state and federal funding to pay for more staff. AB 1075 does not call for increased funding because it would not take effect until July 2002, when the state's budget "may be healthier" (Pope, San Jose Mercury News, 5/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.