The Florida Capitol building
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Florida Nursing homes would be able to operate with looser staffing requirements under two similar measures advanced by lawmakers this week.

Certified nursing assistants are required to provide a minimum of 2.5 hours of direct care per resident day under current law. 

The House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee on Tuesday approved HB 1239, which would reduce that requirement to 2 hours and also take into account time other workers, including therapists, have spent with residents.

Over in the Senate, the Health Policy Committee on Thursday approved a similar measure that would also reduce the CNA requirement to 2 hours. It also would change an existing law requiring 3.6 hours of nursing care by changing it to 3.6 hours of direct care.

The Senate measure defines direct care staff as those who supply care and services that allow residents to reach or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being. That would include, but isn’t limited to, physicians, occupational therapy, activities staff, speech therapy and mental health service workers.

LeadingAge Florida on Thursday said the workforce crisis is a complex problem that is going to require an equally complex set of solutions in the long-term.

“In the short term, rethinking the definition of direct care staff is one solution that will reopen beds and ensure Florida’s seniors have access to the high-quality care they need,” Steve Bahmer, LeadingAge Florida’s president and CEO, said. 

Bahmer added that lawmakers must also consider a funding approach that prioritizes direct care and providers. 

“To ensure that the funds are used as intended by the legislature, any rate increase for Medicaid reimbursement should be allocated to the direct patient care component within the prospective payment system,” Bahmer added.