'Safe staffing' legislation still needs work, state healthcare leader says

A bill requiring Washington nursing homes to provide each resident with more than three hours of direct care per day was signed into law earlier this month, but a long-term care leader involved with the legislation says there's still work to be done.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed House Bill 1274, which would create a value-based system for nursing home rates, on July 1. The bill includes a “safe staffing” section that requires nursing homes to provide residents with a minimum of 3.4 hours of combined direct care each day from RNs, LPNs and CNAs. The new requirements must be met by July 1, 2016.

A work group of long-term care provider organizations, nursing facility employees, consumer groups and worker representatives was created as part of the bill to propose modifications and report back to the legislature in October. Robin Dale, president and CEO of the Washington Health Care Association, is part of that work group, which he says has recently honed in on the minimum staffing standard.

“There's so many different stakeholder groups who have a piece of this, or are concerned about it,” Dale told McKnight's. “Believe it or not, we've talked about it the last two meetings, and we're going to talk about it again on July 30.”

Dale said that while the bill is a “good starting point,” the work group still has a ways to go to before it proposes changes that can help providers meet reasonable staffing requirements while also ensuring resident safety.

“We're trying to fill in the details within the statue — there's still a lot of work to be done,” Dale said. “We're hoping that what we end up with is a better piece of legislation.”

Currently, California and Oregon have minimum direct care laws in place; California's requires 3.2 direct care hours per day, while Oregon's requires 2.46 hours.