On Feb. 28, 2020, a new nursing facility care bill has passed in Georgia’s legislative house by a staggering 160 – 1 vote. If this bill passes the Senate, it will become law, requiring nursing homes, assisted living centers, and personal care homes to reevaluate the level of care they are providing to their residents.
HB 987, more commonly known as the nursing facility care bill, comes with several provisions aimed at nursing homes, long-term care facilities, personal care homes, or all three. One of the first things that the nursing facility care bill aims to accomplish is raising fines for the abuse and neglect of residents. The bill would also require administrators of assisted living facilities and personal care homes with a significant number of residents to be trained to a similar standard as the one currently required for nursing home administrators.
The nursing facility care bill would also require all facilities to apply for and receive certification for memory care units. This measure would also require the hiring of staff members who have been approved as highly trained to caretakers of residents who have been diagnosed with dementias. Due to the increased workload and complexities of these actions, the nursing facility care bill also mandates an increase in 24-hour staff members in these units based on a minimum number of weekly care hours per resident.
The nursing facility care bill has been bipartisanly championed by Representative Sharon Cooper, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, and Representative Calvin Smyre. Cooper has received credit from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) for shepherding the bill through the House in just over week after the bill was introduced to the floor. Cooper herself told reporters that the nursing facility care bill has been a “carefully crafted compromise” between the numerous concerns of senior rights advocates and the interests of the nursing facility industry. Cooper also stated that “I believe in prevention. This is a proactive approach.”
By her own statement, Cooper drafted the nursing facility care bill following an investigative series published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in late 2019. The series showcased nearly 700 reported cases of neglect and abuse that had been documented in nursing homes and care facilities across Georgia, including over 20 deaths that were linked to breakdowns in care. Representatives Cooper and Smyre included mention of the AJC investigation on the House floor when they petitioned the representatives to adopt the bill.
Representative Smyre even shared a personal story of how his grandmother had wandered from a care facility, but she was found uninjured, and his family was able to move her to a different home. One of the 20 deaths mentioned in the AJC investigation was a 92-year-old woman whose story was identical, except for its conclusion. Smyre told the House that “We need to continue to create good public policy to oversee the senior care facilities so we can stop such tragedies in the future.”
On the day of the overwhelming triumph of the nursing facility care bill, the only dissenting vote arose from Representative Sharon Beasley-Teague who did not respond to requests for comment.
For more information about the abuse and neglect that continue to be uncovered in nursing homes and potential courses of action, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Neglect and Abuse Page.