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Sun Sentinel: Budget deal gives nursing homes lower staffing mandates

By Aaron Deslatte

May 5, 2011

TALLAHASSEE — Florida nursing homes serving Medicaid patients are taking significant reimbursement cuts to the tune of $187 million in the $69.6 billion budget that lawmakers are preparing to pass on Friday.

But House and Senate lawmakers are trying to make it up to the industry, inserting language into the budget conforming bills that will lower the average number of hours a day that nursing homes are required to provide direct-care to patients.

The chamber’s budget chairs — meeting in their last conference of the session — signed off on dozens of final agreements Thursday buried within the 50 or so budget conforming bills that among other things, will lower the minimum weekly average of hours of direct-care that homes have to provide nursing care from 3.9 hours a day to 3.6 hours.

Nursing assistant staffing hours would also drop from 2.7 hours to 2.5 hours.

After the budget meeting, a union for nursing home workers blasted the move as an erosion of Florida’s once-heralded minimum-staffing requirement for nursing homes enacted in 2001.

“This can potentially endanger lives, kill jobs and hurt our economy. Without adequate hands-on care, nursing home residents run the risk of getting pressure sores, falling down or suffering from malnutrition,” said Cloreta Morgan, a CNA at Unity Health and Rehab Center in Miami and member of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

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