SEIU Healthcare Missouri praises new CMS staffing standards for nursing homes

St. Louis – The Biden administration announced April 22 that it has finalized a rule setting minimum staffing levels for nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid dollars, a move resident advocates have long called for and industry groups have steadfastly opposed.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the rule will be introduced in phases to give nursing homes time to hire, with longer time frames for rural areas, where recruitment is often more difficult. As it stands, about half of the nursing homes in the St. Louis region — and two-thirds in the state — would fail a key requirement.

Advocates have called for a federal, minimum staffing standard for nursing homes for decades, arguing that in chronically short-staffed facilities, residents wait hours for staff to answer call lights, bathing schedules are spaced out and problems go unnoticed. Working conditions for existing staff also worsen, which leads to higher turnover.

SEIU Healthcare Missouri Kansas applauded the Biden-Harris administration for taking a major step toward strengthening the long-term care workforce and ensuring quality care for those who need it. 

“We know that staffing levels at nursing homes are closely linked to the quality of care residents receive,” said Lenny Jones, vice president of SEIU Healthcare Missouri Kansas, “but we also know that bad actors slash staffing levels and keep wages stagnant in order to maximize profits. After enduring the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing home workers can look forward to having the staff and resources needed to provide the best care possible for their residents.”

“This was a huge step forward for resident safety,” Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, the Marlborough-based nonprofit that serves as the region’s long-term care ombudsman program, told the Post-Dispatch.

Under the new rules, nursing homes will be required to provide 3.48 hours of nursing staff time per resident per day. One analysis of federal data found that 320 of 486 Missouri nursing homes fall short.

Missouri nursing homes average 3.2 hours of nursing care per resident per day, the lowest in the nation, and Illinois averages 3.24, according to the data analysis by the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a New York-based nonprofit that advocates on behalf of residents.

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