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Caregivers say state law is creating deadly situations in nursing homes

house bill 1239
Posted at 5:21 PM, Jun 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-09 05:24:59-04

NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla.  — On Wednesday, healthcare workers in Southwest Florida said House Bill 1239, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis is creating unsafe situations for nursing homes.

The bill was signed by DeSantis back in April and caregivers who gathered in North Fort Myers said this isn't the solution to the state's healthcare shortage.

The event is part of a campaign throughout Florida in which participants said they will “walk on the boss” and other actions in their facilities to demand safer staffing and rally against new laws that have dangerously cut staffing requirements.

Margarette Nerette, the Vice President of Long-Term Care for union 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, agrees there is a problem in the state of Florida when it comes to nursing homes.

“We are suffering a crisis,” said Nerette.

HB 1239 was created in part, to alleviate the workforce crisis in nursing homes.

Roxey Nelson, Executive Vice President for union United Healthcare Workers East said it's doing the opposite.

“You don’t get workers back to the bedside by making it harder for them to do their jobs,” said Nelson.

HB 1239 signed into state law on April 6, changes how Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) directly care for patients.

The bill in part reduces the requirement that a nursing home must provide a minimum of 2.5 hours of CNA staffing per resident per day to 2.0 hours.

A 30 minute difference that Sarasota's Amy Runkle, a current CNA said has irreversible outcomes.

“We were struggling already, at 2 and a half, now something people aren't even getting done. some people aren't getting the showers they need, they are breaking down with bed sores because we don't have continuity of care. we don’t have that accountability for the aids to take care of their people…and it's tough," said Runkle.

Florida House Representative Lauren Melo of Naples, sponsored HB 1239.

We asked Melo how she feels this bill can impact the issues nursing homes are facing.

In a statement to Fox 4 from Lauren Melo:

I was proud to sponsor HB1239. This bill allows modernization of staffing standards, which will directly benefit the patient. Today’s patient needs are entirely different than 20 years ago. Direct care staff will include mental health counselors, physical and respiratory therapists. HB1239 allows Florida’s nursing homes to provide a more personalized approach to care.
Lauren Melo Member of the Florida House of Representatives

According to the Florida Healthcare Association, HB 1239 will allow other highly trained caregivers, besides CNAs like counselors and therapists to step in and address patients' needs.

"And ultimately what does that do, it slows us down,” said Runkle.

AARP has opposed the bill along with 1199SEIU caregivers and said this new law takes the nursing out of nursing homes.

The June 8 effort in Florida is in conjunction with a “National Day of Action” by essential union workers calling for safe conditions and fair pay in their workplaces.

1199SEIU spokesperson Desiree Taylor said Florida is among the 13 states participating in this national action, she says to save nursing homes.