Proposed staffing ratio cheered by CNAs, opposed by nursing home operators

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A bill in the statehouse would force many New Jersey nursing homes to increase staffing of certified nurse aides, a proposal that was literally cheered by those front-line workers but rejected as an unfunded mandate by local operators.

The Assembly Human Services Committee last week advanced a bill to establish specific staff-to-patient ratios, earning applause from aides in attendance. It would enact regulations supporters say are on par with staffing levels already in place in other states. The bill would not affect requirements for LPNs, RNs or other nursing home employees, according to NJSpotlight.com.

New Jersey requires nursing homes to provide 4.1 hours of care per resident each day, with additional rules for specialty care units. Assembly bill 382 would set a ratio of one CNA for every 8 residents during the day; 1:10 during the evening; and 1:16 overnight.

The New Jersey Hospital Association represents more than 100 nursing homes. It estimates the higher ratios would require hiring an additional 3,000 aides at a cost of $95 million annually, a problem in a state already facing a CNA shortage.

Others said quality remains high, and that many facilities opt for higher ratios on their own.

“It's the quality (of caregivers), not the quantity that matters,” said James McCracken of LeadingAge New Jersey.

On May 1, members of 1199SEIU, which represents 8,000 of the state's nursing home workers, rallied at the state capitol in support of the bill. In her testimony Wednesday, SEIU vice president Milly Silva told committee members their state ranks 44th in the nation for staff-to-patient ratios.

“These statistics are alarming and should serve as a wakeup call,” she said.

The measure now heads to the full Assembly for a vote. A Senate version awaits an initial hearing.

Similar legislation passed both houses but was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2016. Now, however, the state has a Democratic governor.