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Nursing Homes Would Provide More Direct Care To Residents Under Proposed Pennsylvania Rule

allison beam health secretary.jpeg
Commonwealth Media Services
“I can tell you that we are taking an aggressive approach to ensure that nursing home residents get the care they need and deserve,” Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said during an afternoon news conference.

The Wolf administration on Wednesday released a long-awaited update to Pennsylvania’s decades-old nursing home regulations, acknowledging it must raise low quality care requirements experts have called dangerous.

The state only requires nursing homes to provide residents with 2.7 hours of direct care each day, despite federal recommendations that, at a minimum, facilities should provide 4.1 hours of care daily.

A 2020 investigation by Spotlight PA found just a quarter of the state’s more than 670 licensed facilities met that higher benchmark, and that the lower standards were exacerbated by the pandemic, which has killed at least 13,374 people inside Pennsylvania’s nursing and personal care homes.

The proposed regulations, the first in what the department says will be a series of five, would bring Pennsylvania up to the federally recommended minimum for quality care. Wednesday’s announcement comes just days before nursing home workers at 21 Pennsylvania facilities were scheduled to walk off the job to protest staffing, among other issues.

“We need to improve working conditions for nursing home staff. We know that when staff burn out, resident care suffers,” Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said during an afternoon news conference.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents more than 400 long-term care facilities, immediately pushed back on the announcement, calling the proposal “out of touch.”

“In our current operating environment, this proposed regulation is an unattainable, unfunded mandate that will cripple an essential component of the long-term care continuum in one of the oldest states, in terms of population, in the entire country,” the group’s president and CEO, Zach Shamberg, said in a statement.

Wednesday’s proposed regulations are the first step in a lengthy process and will soon be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for a 30-day public comment period.

This story will be updated.
90.5 WESA partners with Spotlight PA, a collaborative, reader-funded newsroom producing accountability journalism for all of Pennsylvania. More at spotlightpa.org.