After a scathing report about inflated staffing numbers in nursing homes surfaced last week, Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law this week that ensures residents receive 3.2 hours of direct care daily.
The “safe staffing” bill was proposed after several concerns arose about there being too many facilities and not enough caregivers to meet the needs of residents.
Shelly Hughes, a certified nursing assistant who has worked in Washington nursing homes for five years, testified for the bill and told Public News Service, “I feel like the ‘age wave,’ the fact that there are so many people retiring in our state is present in folks’ minds. People are starting to talk about it. I believe it’s about total care; it’s about this continuum of care, so that people can age with dignity in our state.”
The Washington law goes into effect in July 1, 2016. A committee made up of industry leaders, caregivers, residents and family members will be formed to determine how to meet staffing levels to meet the 3.2-hour per day requirement.
California and Oregon have similar direct-care laws on the books too. California’s law, enacted in 2003, also requires 3.2 nursing hours per resident per day. Oregon’s law, enacted in 2013, operates at 2.46 nursing hours per resident per day.
Inflating staff numbers on Medicare.gov’s Nursing Home Compare tool isn’t a new problem. In a recent report from the Center for Public Integrity, it was found that more than 80 percent of nursing homes were consistently lying about their staff numbers to get a higher ranking. In some cases, nursing homes reported they had twice the staffing hours they actually had, which gives families looking for nursing homes inaccurate information.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services changed its five-star rating system in February to reconfigure the way staffing changes are determined, but it remains an issue.