PROVIDENCE, RI — Several Rhode Island lawmakers and members of the health care industry are calling for changes in the state's nursing homes. The Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act would create minimum standards for staffing and patient care hours.
According to Adanjesus Marin, an activist with Raise The Bar, said Rhode Island ranks 42nd in the country in terms of the hours of care nursing homes residents receive and is the only state in the region without minimum staffing standards in these facilities.
"It doesn't have to be this way," Marin said.
The bill would require nursing home residents to receive, at minimum, 4.1 hours of direct care each day from a registered nursing or certified nursing assistant. Several caregivers testified that this standard is very difficult to meet under current staffing trends.
"Seniors in the state of Rhode Island are our treasures," said Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, one of the bill's sponsors. "They deserve better, and certainly our caregivers deserve better."
Victoria Mitchel, a CNA at Hopkins Manor in North Providence for 24 years, said that there will sometimes be three CNAs on duty to care for 44 patients, or approximately 15 people per patient. Amid the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, this strain is only amplified, she said.
"They need to pass this bill because we need it," she said.
Mitchel described the high burn out rate for CNAs due to low pay, the high patient ratio and the physical demands of the job.
Jean Austin, a registered nurse at Genesis Greenville Center, said staffing is "totally inadequate," citing overworked CNAs, low wages and patients being sent to nursing homes "sicker and quicker."
Although the Rhode Island General Assembly is set to recess Thursday, it's still possible that the bill will go through this year, Goodwin said. The House and Senate will reconvene in July to discuss the upcoming budget, at which time they could consider the legislation.
"Just because tonight the legislature will adjourn does not mean we can't get this bill through this year," Goodwin said Thursday morning.
Health care workers and activists will rally in support of the bill at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. Social distancing will be enforced and masks will be available to those who need them.