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Sunday, January 7, 2024

Governor McKee kicks the teeth out of the nursing home resident care law

Subverts the law HE signed


Late Friday afternoon Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee declared a “Nursing Home Emergency” and signed an executive order suspending the monetary penalties private nursing home owners might face for understaffing. 

The law, known as the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act, passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McKee in 2021, was the result of a long campaign by the Raise the Bar on Resident Care Coalition, a coalition of labor, healthcare advocates, religious leaders, and family members of nursing home residents seeking to ensure that residents receive adequate care.

The financial penalties built into the law were the teeth that gave the state the power to ensure resident care and safety. 

Without such penalties, the law is empty and has no real power to compel resident care companies to provide adequate staffing. 

The bill requires that every resident receive 3.81 hours of care per day and the financial penalties would kick in if these minimum goals were not met. The executive order nullifies these penalties.

“Today, when we sign this bill, we take a step forward for staff, residents, and their families,” said Governor McKee when he signed the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act in May 2021. 

“Rhode Island nursing home residents deserve the very best possible care and nursing home staff deserve the support they need to make that happen.”

On Friday, Governor McKee noted that “the estimated net costs of enforcing the minimum staffing level compliance and enforcement program… would be approximately $60 million, further straining nursing home resources and potentially resulting in additional closures, and forcing the relocation of residents.”

Since the law went into effect no penalties have been assessed against any nursing homes for being in violation.

This isn’t the first time Governor McKee has used his executive powers to circumvent the law. In January 2022 the Governor delayed the execution of the law via executive order

At that time Registered Nurse Cheryl Chianese wrote that “if Governor McKee doesn’t change course and allow the safe staffing law to proceed, the quality of care will continue to get worse and residents will suffer.”

“Governor McKee signed The Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act into law in 2021 after a majority of COVID-related deaths were found in nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” said Jesse Martin, Executive Vice President of SEIU 1199NE and member of Raise the Bar on Resident Care Coalition in a statement. 

“Although studies have shown that safe staffing is the primary way to ensure quality care, Rhode Island now ranks 38th in the country according to the AARP

"While many of our state’s non-profit homes have exceeded safe staffing requirements, the majority of for-profit nursing homes continue to rack up massive profits while crying wolf about safe staffing fines. Instead of giving nursing home owners free rein, it is critical that all stakeholders work together to hold nursing homes accountable to providing safe, dignified care.”

The Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act was one of the last great accomplishments of Senator Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence), who died last year.