NEW JERSEY – Governor Phil Murphy Friday signed two bills (S2712 and S2785) ordering reforms to the long-term care industry. The bills implement recommendations from the Manatt Health Report, released on June 3, 2020.
Bill (S2712) requires minimum direct care staff-to-resident ratios in New Jersey long-term care facilities. Additionally, the legislation will establish the Special Task Force on Direct Care Workforce Retention and Recruitment. S2785 requires long-term care facilities to institute policies that prevent social isolation of residents, addressing issues experienced by LTC residents and their families as a result of prohibitions and limitations on visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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.”
“Staff caring for our most vulnerable residents in long-term care settings are the backbone of these facilities,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “As a nurse, I know there is no more important role than as a caregiver and all of those working in these facilities are healthcare heroes. We have to support this workforce and give them an opportunity to grow and advance in their careers, so it is not only a more rewarding job, but also results in improved care.”
Bill (S2712) establishes minimum direct care staff-to-resident ratios in nursing homes. The Manatt Report cited longstanding staffing shortages as one of the systemic issues that exacerbated the industry’s COVID-19-response challenges.
Specifically, the law requires:
- One CNA to every eight residents for the day shift;
- One direct care staff member (RN, LPN, or CNA) to every 10 residents for the evening shift; and
- One direct care staff member (RN, LPN, or CNA) to every 14 residents for the night shift.
The bill also establishes the Special Task Force on Direct Care Workforce Retention and Recruitment, which will evaluate job supports and incentives, training opportunities, wages and benefits, educational initiatives, and certification reciprocity rules. The Task Force will be required to submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature within one year of its first meeting, which must occur within 180 days of signing.
The bill requires long-term care facilities, as a condition of licensure, to implement policies to prevent social isolation of residents. The bill is intended to address the tremendous strain experienced by long-term care residents and families of residents as a result of the prohibition of and limitation on visitation during the pandemic. The bill requires facilities to create social isolation prevention policies to authorize residents of the facility to engage in in-person contact, communications, and religious and recreational activities with other facility residents and with family members, friends, and other external support systems, except when prohibited, restricted, or limited. The bill further requires policies to consider means to promote virtual visitation and resident recreational activities during periods where in-person engagement is limited/prohibited, and requires facilities to maintain the appropriate technology to implement that mandate.