October 25, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an adverse effect on the state’s long-term care industry, New Jersey is taking additional steps to protect residents and ensure high-quality care.
Nursing homes across the state are now mandated to implement minimum staff ratios and develop policies that prevent residents from being socially-isolated during the ongoing public health crisis.
The first piece of legislation mandates one staff member for every eight residents during the day, one staff member for every 10 residents during the evening, and one staff member for every 14 residents overnight.
Along with requiring minimum direct care staff-to-resident ratios in nursing homes, the initiative also establishes the Special Task Force on Direct Care Workforce Retention and Recruitment.
The task force will be focused on evaluating job supports and incentives, training opportunities, wages and benefits, educational initiatives, and certification reciprocity rules.
The group will need to submit a report to Murphy and the state legislature within one year of its first meeting, which is mandated to take place within the next six months.
The initiative to implement protocols that protect residents from social isolation came about as families have been limited or unable to visit loved ones in long-term care facilities due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Nursing homes will now be required to create initiatives that allow residents to engage in virtual and in-person contact, communication, and religious and recreational activities with other residents, as well as with family members and friends.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed both pieces of legislation this week, which he said will help bring about much-needed reform in long-term care facilities.
“Sadly, too many nursing homes are run by companies more interested in making money than protecting patients," Murphy said. "These long-sought reforms will help bring accountability to the industry and protect residents, staff, and family members with a loved one living in a long-term care facility.”
“I am proud to have worked with our partners in organized labor, health care advocates, and legislative sponsors to finally implement safe staffing ratios in our nursing homes, as well as other long overdue reforms."
The latest initiatives came about after a review of the state’s long-term care facility industry by Manatt Health to address the systemic challenges that nursing homes face and provide reforms in the wake of COVID-19. The study was conducted earlier in the pandemic, and its findings were unveiled in June.
Last month, New Jersey implemented additional policies to help bolster nursing homes across the state, as well as to improve the resiliency and preparedness of the industry for future COVID-19 outbreaks.
Those measures included minimum wage requirements for long-term care facility staff, direct care ratio mandates for nursing homes, and nursing home care rate studies.
Nursing homes across New Jersey have been devastated by the ongoing public health crisis. Almost 800 facilities across the state have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks.
There have been over 39,000 coronavirus cases linked to nursing home residents and staff. That accounts for over 17% of New Jersey’s total number of infections.
Additionally, there have been over 7,000 deaths due to COVID-19 among long-term face facility residents and staff. That makes up roughly half of New Jersey’s death toll from the virus.