Bethlehem (August 20, 2021)- State Senator Lisa M. Boscola today raised concerns today with the practicality of proposed Nursing Home regulations raising the number of direct care hours from 2.7 to 4.1 due the availability of health care workers needed to meet that requirement and its impact on Gracedale, Northampton County’s nursing home.
“In a perfect world, I would fully support the proposed increase in direct care hours to better meet the health care needs for nursing home residents across Pennsylvania,” Boscola stated. “This, however, is not a perfect world as we continue to deal with the pandemic. Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure has advised me that this is not workable for Gracedale and no doubt many facilities, public and private, across Pennsylvania.”
Boscola advised that the regulations are available for review on the PA Bulletin website (https://www.pacodeandbulletin.gov/Display/pabull?file=/secure/pabulletin/data/vol51/51-31/1195.html#) and the public comment period is currently open and runs until August 30, 2021.
“I am urging the Department of Health to reconsider these regulations at this time and consider implementing a phased in approach until the supply of nursing home staff can meet the demand required of increasing direct care hours by over 50%,” Boscola added. “Northampton County pays their nursing staff well and offers a defined benefit retirement that allows many to retire at 55. But yet, even with offering enticements to enter this field such as providing tuition payment, it is difficult to maintain staff and even more difficult to meet this proposed change.”
Boscola further stated that she supports further state action to assist nursing homes to increase their direct care hours above 2.7 such as increasing state funding and Medicaid reimbursements, but these alone will not make up for the lack of available workers. She also noted that is why she championed PA joining the Nurse Licensure Compact to allow for a larger pool of nurses eligible to come into Pennsylvania to work.
“Northampton County has one of the largest county run nursing homes in the state and will continue to work with County Executive McClure to ensure there is a county nursing home to provide a safety net for our elderly residents and their families,” Boscola said.
This is the beginning of a regulatory review process and it is critical that the public get on the record with Independent Regulatory Review Commission, regarding their concerns with how these proposed changes will impact Gracedale and all other county nursing homes, if implemented.
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