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The federal government’s plan to implement minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes isn’t the way to improve quality at facilities, the Ensign Group’s top leader said Friday. 

“It’s certainly not a model we necessarily agree with,” Ensign CEO Barry Port said. “That’s not the way to drive quality, in our opinion.” 

Port’s comments came Friday during the question-and-answer portion of the company’s first-quarter earnings call. He stressed any staffing-level policy must take into account all types of providers and the different acuity levels of their residents when developing the measures. 

“A federal staffing minimum that takes into account what the average operator does would mean that we’re probably much higher than the average threshold just given our acuity levels that we already see,” Port explained. “We try not to focus too much on the what-ifs, especially when there’s very little detail given around it.”

He added that “regardless of what the federal government does with a regulatory mandate around staffing, we’re not too worried about it.”

“They’re certainly asking for a lot of feedback from the operator community, which is positive, and we are involved with that at our federal association level and will continue to be,” he said. 

Ensign also highlighted its improvements in workforce over the quarter during the call. Port said the company grew its frontline workforce by 3% while also decreasing agency usage. 

“This incredible progress is the culmination of hundreds of local leaders relentlessly focused on recruiting and retention,” Port said. “We are confident that our model of peer-to-peer best practice sharing will only accelerate this improvement in coming months.”