Skilled nursing advocates are applauding the “long-overdue” introduction of a bill Friday, which could kill “rigid provisions” they say are keeping the field from meeting its own dire staffing needs.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) introduced legislation that would modify what’s called the certified nursing training lockout, which has been in place since 1987. Existing laws state that nursing homes assessed civil monetary penalties above $10,000 on their annual survey lose their ability to train CNAs for two years.

Industry trade groups have long advocated for abolishment of the provision.

“Nursing homes and other long-term care providers are grappling with a severe workforce shortage,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said in a joint statement with the American Health Care Association. “The ability to train CNAs is crucial to building and maintaining a pipeline of qualified staff. The introduction of this bill is a monumental step forward in our ongoing efforts to address the challenges providers face in recruiting and retaining workers.”

Part of the problem is suspension of CNA training is required, even if the fines are not related to quality of care. Training can’t be reinstated before the end of the two-year lockout, regardless of whether the issues raised by the citation have been fixed.

“Effectively eliminating training programs for vital frontline staff threatens the quality of care we provide, particularly as the shortage of health care workers becomes more acute,” added Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the AHCA.  “CNAs are the backbone of quality care.”

The training lockout affects more than half of skilled nursing facilities in Wisconsin, a number that is much higher in other states, said Duffy, who is also the chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing & Insurance.

“This lockout is counterintuitive because it limits a SNF’s ability to train new qualified staff, which can perpetuate a substandard quality of care if facilities are not able to recruit qualified nurses. Nursing homes that are compliant with the law should not be forced to sacrifice quality staff because of arbitrary lockouts,” Duffy said in his statement.