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NJ governor vetoes staffing minimums

January 22, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has rejected legislation that would have set nursing home staffing minimums for certified nursing assistants (CNAs). He did not issue a statement explaining why he vetoed the bill intended to minimize the chance for neglect and improve quality of life for New Jersey nursing home residents.

Bill A4636 would have required one CNA for every eight residents during the day shift, one for every 10 residents during the late day shift and one for every 16 residents on the overnight shift. Registered nurses were not included in the bill.

"The stakes are simply too high to accept the status quo, and the healthcare workers of 1199 (Service Employees International Union) will do everything it takes to win legislation that will make New Jersey a place where our senior are cared for with dignity and humanity," says Milly Silva, executive vice president of the health workers union to "Improving nursing home staffing will continue to be a priority issue for our union in the weeks and months to come."

Sponsors said the legislation was written in response to a national survey that ranked New Jersey nursing homes 49th out of 50 states on preventing bedsores, consumer complaints and testimony from members of 1199 SEIU.

Nursing home operators argued the mandate would be a financial burden and hinder their ability to make staffing decisions based on resident health needs. "There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that can be taken with staffing," says Michelle Kent, chief executive officer of Leading Age New Jersey, says to "Every nursing home’s needs are different, and they need a lot of flexibility to decide from day to day and week to week on how to staff these facilities."

Current law mandates residents receive a minimum of 2.5 hours of one-on-one care each day and increases for those with higher needs. A 2015 federal audit by the General Accounting Office found New Jersey nursing homes on average provide each resident with 4.4 hours of care each day. Staffing data is self-reported. A new provision of the Affordable Care Act will require nursing homes to submit payroll data when reporting staffing levels in July.