Budget cuts would increase risk of South Florida nursing home neglect and abuse

Florida’s underfunded and understaffed nursing home system is being targeted for further funding cuts as lawmakers work to balance the state budget, Sunshine News reported.

Understaffed nursing homes and inadequately trained and poorly paid staff are primary causes of South Florida nursing home neglect and abuse cases. Yet lawmakers are looking at ways to change the number of hours of mandatory care provided by certified nursing assistants. Instead, proposing legislation that would have registered nurses assume responsibility for the care.

Supporters, including nursing home lobbyists, argue it will improve care by having skilled nurses assume more responsibility for resident care. However, opponents argue registered nurses have a lot to do already and would not have the time to provide the hands-on assistance many residents require.

The current law was set in 2001 as part of a deal involving lawsuit rules struck between resident advocates and consumer groups on one side and the industry on the other. As part of the compromise, lawsuit damages were limited and staffing requirements were increased so that by 2007 CNA’s were required to spend an average of 2.9 hours per day with patients.

CNAs typically do routine hands-on care in homes, such as turning and bathing patients. The proposed rule would permit a reduction to 2.7 hours per day and allow registered nurses to make up the difference.

Of course, there has been no mention of renegotiating a patient’s ability to collect additional damages in a neglect or abuse lawsuit despite the apparent intent to rewrite the original agreement in favor of nursing home operators — and at the expense of patient care.

The Senate is proposing $200 million in cuts to nursing home reimbursement this year, while the House has proposed a reduction of $133 million.

Residents in Florida nursing homes have rights under the law, which you can review by clicking here.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration provides comprehensive nursing home resources for South Florida residents, including Florida nursing home guides by region and county as well as a watch list of nursing homes with known problems.