PROVIDENCE, RI —The Rhode Island General Assembly approved a bill that creates minimum staffing standards in the state’s nursing homes. The legislation now heads to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and Rep. Scott Slater, was championed by Raise the Bar on Resident Care, an advocacy group focused on patient care.

The coronavirus pandemic exposed an ongoing staffing crisis in Rhode Island’s long-term care facilities. Under the new law, facilities would be required to provide at least 3.58 hours of resident care per day, starting Jan. 1. The following year, that number will be raised to 3.81 hours per day.

“There is a resident care crisis in our state,” Goodwin said. “Staffing shortages and low wages lead to seniors and people with disabilities not receiving the care they desperately need. The pandemic, of course, exponentially increased the demands of the job, and exacerbated patients’ needs. We must confront this problem head-on before our nursing home system collapses.”

According to the bill’s sponsors, Rhode Island currently ranks 41 in the country for average care hours nursing home residents receive, based on data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In addition, the state has one of the lowest per-day resident care hours in the region.

“This bill is about getting our nursing home patients the quality care that they need and deserve,” Rep. Slater said. “Our nursing home system was already facing enormous challenges and problems before COVID-19 and the pandemic has only made these issues much worse. In order for our patients to be treated and cared for properly, these changes to the law must be made.”

Along with creating minimum standards for care, the bill also creates funding to raise wages to “recruit and retain a stable workforce.” Under the current system, short-staffed facilities with low pay see high turnover in workers.

In Rhode Island, the median pay for a certified nursing assistant is less than $15 and $1 per hour less than the median CNA rate in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.

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