If passed, a new bill that is currently making its way through the state Senate would allow Florida nursing homes to dial back the care they give to residents. The changes would mostly affect the amount of care certified nursing assistants provide.

Changing patient care

At the present time, nursing home personnel must provide every patient with a minimum of 3.6 hours of what is called “direct patient care.” Within that time, certified nursing assistants must provide 2.9 hours of care. Under the new bill, each resident would receive one hour of daily direct nursing care, plus 3.9 hours of “direct care staffing.”

Direct care staff

The new bill explains that direct care staff members are responsible for providing services and care that “allow residents to attain or maintain their highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial states of well-being.” Certified nursing assistants are part of a facility’s direct care staff. Their work revolves around daily living help as well as clinical tasks, such as taking blood pressure readings and helping patients with range-of-motion exercises.

Taking sides

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents many of Florida’s largest for-profit nursing homes, pushed for the new bill. The group believes it will provide nursing homes with the expanded ability to bring aboard specialists in activities, mental health, respiratory therapy and other direct-care services. Opponents of the bill, including AARP Florida, have concerns regarding cutting the hours a CNA currently provides to a resident. Those not in favor of the bill want to retain the 2.5-hour requirement for CNAs because these professional caregivers are in charge of seeing that residents are properly bathed, groomed and fed. Many residents become accustomed to having the help of a particular CNA and may not feel as comfortable with what amounts to group-provided care.

What to expect

A House version of the bill is now on file but has not yet gone through committee hearings. Meanwhile, the Senate Health Policy Committee has approved the bill, called SB 1088, which is on track to become effective as of July 1, 2019.