Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Committee fails to vote on nursing home staffing

By Ashley Griffin

The debate over expanding staffing at some Illinois nursing homes will continue after a legislative committee failed to make a decision today.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules was scheduled to take up a staffing rule this morning, but lawmakers say they did not receive the information they needed from the Illinois Department of Public Health in time to take a vote. The issue at hand is a requirement in a 2010 nursing home reform law that nurses supply 20 percent of direct care to patients by 2014. Some nursing homes say the care can be administered by nurses with less training than registered nurses, but the new rule would require that registered nurses provide direct care.

Lawmakers on the committee complained that the IDPH did not provide them with info about the proposed rule until 5 p.m. Monday night. “I was definitely disappointed in how the procedure occurred. I thought this was a very important issue, something that has to be resolved in the state, and because the department pretty much was not inclined to work with all the parties that were involved, the action that occurred today occurred,” said Sen. Andre Thapedi, a Democrat from Chicago. JCAR took a vote today that in effect puts the rule on hold until the committee can take it up again. Members said they would likely revisit the issue next month.

David Vinkler, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Illinois, believes that it is a good sign that JCAR and the department of public health are willing to work together. But he also believes that the ruling should not be put off. “Nursing homes really need changes. This should not be delayed until next month,” Vinkler said.

Protesters who held up signs in the hall outside of the committee hearing were disappointed that the rule was not approved today, and some blamed the IDPH. “I feel very disheartened about today’s vote. I think it was [the IDPH] that made the decision to advise everyone of the changes that they wanted so late that they couldn’t vote, so [IDPH Assistant Director Teresa] Garate’s department screwed us,” said Jim Rhodes, a member of the Illinois Jane Addams Senior Caucus. “She wanted to make the changes so late that they couldn’t vote in honesty, and so we shouldn’t blame JCAR or the JCAR committee. They could not vote in honesty on these rules because they didn’t get them until last night at 5:30. It’s just ridiculous.”

Garate said IDPH was trying to work with JCAR members up until today’s meeting. “We were trying to appease some of the concerns and feedback that we had received from JCAR on the version of the rules we submitted, and that is why we submitted even more revisions on Friday and yesterday. Because they felt the members of JCAR did not have sufficient time to review our revisions, they were not ready to take a vote,” Garate said. “We plan to submit revised language by the end of the week.”

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