Senate Approves Gopal Bill to Set Minimum Nursing Home Certified Nurse Aide-to-Resident Ratios

A bill sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal that would establish minimum certified nursing assistant-to-resident ratios for nursing homes was approved Sunday, July 1 by the full Senate.

The bill, S-1612, would set certified nursing assistant-to-resident ratios as: one certified nursing assistant for every eight residents on the day shift; one certified nursing assistant for every ten residents on the evening shift; and one certified nursing assistant for every 16 residents on the night shift.

“New Jersey was ranked 43 out of 50 in direct care staffing hours per nursing home resident by the national nursing home watchdog organization, Families for Better Care. They gave us a solid ‘F’,” said Senator Gopal. “These are our parents and grandparents.  And soon, they will be us. We have to do better for our senior citizens and the frail and elderly of our state.”

The bill would also set forth a methodology for computing the appropriate ratio, and would provide that a nursing home that experiences an increase in resident census is exempt from increasing the number of certified nursing assistants for nine consecutive shifts.

The Commissioner of Health would set standards concerning the conspicuous posting in nursing homes of the minimum aide-to-resident ratio, any required reporting by nursing homes of compliance, any mechanisms for enforcement, and the manner in which residents, their families or representatives, or other individuals may report failures of nursing homes to maintain the minimum aide-to-resident ratios.

Pediatric long-term care facilities would be exempt from this staffing requirement.

The bill would not affect any other minimum staffing requirements as may be mandated by the Commissioner of Health for nursing home staff other than certified nursing assistants, and nothing in the bill would prohibit a nursing home from establishing staffing levels above the established minimum.

Supporters of the bill argue that nursing home staffing experts recommend 4.1 hours of care per resident, per day.  Currently, New Jersey requires 2.5 total hours of direct care staff time per resident, per day.

The bill would take effect on the first day of the fourth month after enactment.

With Sunday’s 22-15 vote, the bill cleared the Senate.