After over a decade of failed efforts, Virginia lawmakers have finally voted to establish minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes, a game-changer in the quality of care for its residents.
This major shift took place on Monday, when members of the Joint Commission on Health Care approved a proposal to establish minimum staffing standards at nursing homes. The number of staff members will be based on the needs and conditions of its residents, and this data will be collected and calculated by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.
This statewide mandate will help all nursing home facilities, including the roughly 21% of nursing homes in Virginia that failed to meet their recommended staffing hours, based on data collected by the Commission in August 2021.
How strong is the need for increased care in Virginia nursing homes?
“This is a historic moment,” said Delegate Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax. “We’ve never had this before, so this is a big step for the Old Dominion.” In fact, Virginia is currently one in only 16 states that had yet to mandate workforce requirements for nursing facilities. Efforts to introduce staffing standards had failed for 17 years in a row, largely based on the anticipated cost of improving conditions.
“We’ve never had a staffing standard and that’s because we never really wanted to fund what’s required,” Sickles said. But a lack of spending has had its consequences. The death rate due to COVID-19 in Virginia nursing homes was the second highest in the nation, with over 4,500 deaths. An analysis by the Commission found that understaffing is most prevalent in facilities with higher numbers of Black and low-income residents.
What happens next?
The changes will not be immediate. Over the next several weeks, lawmakers will develop the bill’s specifics. Once the standards are locked in, they will need to be enforced by the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Licensure and Certification.
This is a long time coming. Many of us who practice nursing home litigation know from experience that there is a correlation between staffing levels in nursing home facilities and the provision of quality care to nursing home patients. The imposition of staffing standards will go a long way towards making these facilities safer for patients many of whom depend exclusively on direct care providers to meet basic human needs. I’m hopeful that by adopting staffing standards we will see fewer preventable injuries and deaths within this vulnerable patient population.
If you believe that a loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect, our experienced nursing home negligence attorneys may be able to help. Call today for a free consultation at 866-388-1307.