District court rejects AHCA motion in feeding assistant case

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A federal court has denied the American Health Care Association's motion to intervene on behalf of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in a case involving the use of so-called "feeding assistants" in nursing homes. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle handed down its ruling Tuesday.

AHCA late last year filed a motion to join the defense in the lawsuit that is seeking to stop the use of feeding assistants in homes. Since 2003, the HHS rule allows people with about one-tenth of the training time of a certified nurse's aide to help residents with eating and drinking.

The Resident Councils of Washington and the Washington State Ombudsman Program are suing HHS, claiming the feeding assistants could be an impediment to delivering the highest quality of care, which is mandated under law.

According to this week's ruling, "AHCA has failed to make a showing that Defendant will inadequately represent AHCA's interest in defending the regulations at issue in this action."

The use of feeding assistants is left up to individual states' health departments. Numerous states have already approved programs for feeding assistants, while dozens of others have explored possibilities.