A Broken Promise to Nursing Home Residents
Fifteen years ago, Florida lawmakers passed the most aggressive nursing home resident protection legislation in the history of the state by creating a bold caregiver to resident staffing standard.
This new staffing standard was the central piece of a brokered tort reform deal between advocates, trial lawyers, and industry representatives after years of horrific abuse and neglect plagued the nursing home industry. The bill was designed to cement better care for residents while, at the same time, put some limitations on nursing home lawsuits.
The new staffing law quickly became the envy of the nation, ushering in a new era of nursing home care. The law guaranteed that residents would receive nearly 3.0 hours of direct care per resident per day within three years of the law’s enactment.
But the euphoria that surrounded the bill soon waned and the promise of increased staffing soon fizzled.
As the table below shows, lawmakers repeatedly renegotiated the staffing standard to accommodate the nursing home industry and its lobbyists.
Today, staffing hours are calculated on a weekly combined average between frontline caregivers and licensed nursing staff that cannot fall below a minimum threshold of 2.5 hours per resident per day—a far cry from the promised 2.9 hours of 2001.
The nursing home sector is now operating at a level that is well below what was expected for 2016. If the promised 2.9 hours per resident per day standard was applied to the nursing home sector today, nearly 70 percent of Florida’s nursing homes would fall below that minimum.
The difference between 2.9 hours per resident per day and 2.5 hours roughly translates to residents receiving 24 minutes less care per day than they were promised, placing our loved ones at risk for unnecessary falls, pressure sores, urinary tract infections, or even death.
And yet, even as the staffing standard has been chiseled down over the past 15 years to benefit the industry, the owners and lobbyists wanted more. Nursing home lobbyists argued that even with the favorable 2001 lawsuit protections—which the industry hailed as “effective” as late as 2010—that the industry’s corporate decision makers were left too exposed to potential lawsuits. So in response to the industry’s concerns, lawmakers granted them near immunity from any consumer accountability by recently passing a favorable industry bill supported by the Florida Justice Association and AARP.
That means that the acclaimed 2001 nursing home reforms are all but flat lining.
Families for Better Care strongly encourages you to contact your legislators today and ask them to keep their promise to residents by restoring the staffing requirements that they agreed to in 2001.
Nursing home residents deserve better than broken promises from our elected officials.