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Rhode Island providers received a month-long delay from a new law that requires nursing homes to meet minimum staffing requirements or face fines. 

Gov. Dan McKee (D) on Friday issued an executive order that delays the new Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act that he signed into law. It was set to go into effect on Jan. 1. 

The law requires facilities to provide 3.58 hours of direct nursing care per resident per day and 2.44 hours of patient care per day for certified nursing facilities, or be penalized. A cost-benefit analysis estimated that nursing homes could face $8 million in penalties by this summer in order to comply. 

A study by the Rhode Island Health Care Association found the state’s nursing homes had about 1,920 openings overall before the law was set to go into effect. The minimum staffing measure would require them to hire an additional 475 nurses. 

The moratorium on the law runs through Feb. 14. RIHCA and LeadingAge Rhode Island are advocating for further extensions. 

“We’re grateful that [McKee] heard our message. We are grateful that he took action,” John Gage,  president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Monday. “We look forward to working with [the governor] and legislature on a long-term fix because clearly we’re not going to find 2,500 employees to hire between now and Valentine’s Day.” 

Providers are hoping for a one-year delay to allow them sufficient time to recruit and retain the workers,” said James Nyberg, director of LeadingAge RI. 

Some long-term solutions providers have discussed include increased Medicaid rates that would be dedicated toward raising employee wages and more coronavirus relief funding. 

“What’s happening is the nursing homes already are not taking residents because they won’t have enough staff to take care of them,” Gage said. “If you can’t get the bodies to hire then you have to limit how many people you admit in order to achieve the metric.” 

Providers in New York got a similar reprieve. Early this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) delayed for at least 30 days a new nursing home law that would require 3.5 hours of direct nursing care each day and cap profits.