An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angelica Jimenez, Joseph Lagana, Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and L. Grace Spencer to improve oversight and the quality of care for the elderly in New Jersey nursing homes.
The bill (A-4636) would establish minimum certified nursing assistant-to-resident ratios for nursing homes.
"Hopefully these new standards will improve the level of service provided to nursing home residents in New Jersey," said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). "In turn, this will hopefully provide greater peace of mind for both residents and their loved ones."
Under current regulations, the Department of Health requires nursing homes to meet a minimum number of hours of direct care staff-to-resident time per day.
"Mandating specific certified nursing assistant-to-resident ratios will create more precise, enforceable standards," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Ultimately, this will raise the bar for the standard of care throughout nursing homes in New Jersey."
Under the bill, certified nursing assistant-to-resident ratios would be as follows:
1) one certified nursing assistant for every six residents on the day shift;
2) one certified nursing assistant for every nine residents on the evening shift; and
3) one certified nursing assistant for every 14 residents on the night shift.
"Seniors and their loved ones deserve the comfort of knowing that there is a sufficient level of staff to tend to their needs," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Hopefully this will minimize the chance for neglect and improve the overall quality of life for aging residents."
The bill also sets forth a methodology for computing the appropriate ratio, and provides that a nursing home that experiences an increase in resident census is exempt from increasing the number of certified nursing assistants for nine consecutive shifts.
"Countless studies have shown that higher staffing levels result in higher quality of care in nursing homes," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This leads to lower mortality rates, improved functioning, less infections, lower hospitalization rates and an overall improvement in quality of life, which is what we all want for our loved ones."
"Increasing staffing levels not only leads to better care, but helps save money over the long term," said Spencer (D-Essex). "Research shows that increased staff interaction with residents reduces the need for psychotropic drugs that are not only expensive, but increase the likelihood of falls leading to more hospitalizations."
Nothing in the bill would affect any other minimum staffing requirements as may be mandated by the Commissioner of Health for nursing home staff other than certified nursing assistants, and nothing in the bill would prohibit a nursing home from establishing staffing levels above the established minimum.
The legislation was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee.