Plans for federal nursing home mandates drawing fire in Georgia

Mandates would include a minimum number of nursing aids, a registered nurse on-site 24/7, and daily requirements to spend time with each patient.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 10:37 AM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (WARDA/WAGT) - The White House announced plans to impose federal mandates for nursing homes.

President Joe Biden pledged in his State of the Union address, that his administration would “protect seniors’ lives and life savings by cracking down on nursing homes that commit fraud, endanger patient safety or prescribe drugs they don’t need.”

Mandates would include a minimum number of nursing aids, a registered nurse on-site 24/7, and daily requirements to spend time with each patient.

Nursing home staff and hospitals here in Georgia said this is impossible to meet.

Chris Downing, the President and CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association (GHCA) said nursing homes are on the brink of losing services and thousands of people in their care if the federal mandate moves forward.

“It’s really tone-deaf, at a time when we’re in a shortage. That shortage has been exacerbated by COVID. And now they come in with a proposal that’s going to require even additional staff on top of, and we got to backfill where we were before we can even think about getting to where they need us to be,” said Downing.

Georgia has one of the worst ratios of registered nurses per patient in the nation. Long-term care facilities like A.G. Rhodes are forced to use staffing companies to try to hire nurses. A.G. Rhodes CEO Deke Cateau said he’s concerned the mandate would mean a reduction in care.

“The residents that we care for are here because they need an intricate level of care, a care that cannot be provided for them at home,” said Cateau.

357 long term care facilities serve over 40,000 seniors in Georgia. Estimates show nearly a quarter of those seniors could be displaced under the mandate.

A study found less than 1% of Georgia nursing homes meet all three mandates. Estimates show our state would need to hire more than 3,600 full-time employees, which would cost nearly $200 million per year.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and other Republican Governors penned a letter to the White House asking them to reconsider the mandate, saying the mandate does not consider “the unique needs of facilities and the communities they serve.”

“As we continue our efforts to stop a misguided policy that will result in fewer beds and perhaps fewer homes available to Georgia’s seniors at a time when demand is growing, it’s reassuring – in fact, it’s an honor – to see Gov. Kemp lend his respected voice to this cause. Gov. Kemp and legislators are working together to expand the pipeline of student talent into the healthcare profession, but our leaders recognize that our state today faces a nursing shortage that’s at crisis levels. An arbitrary staffing mandate won’t result in more nurses; it’ll result in less access for patients,” said Downing.