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Legislation mandating staffing ratios at nursing homes is both impractical and unnecessary, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association said in testimony prepared for the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.

The committee is considering legislation that would mandate a minimum number of certified nurse aides (CNAs) based on the number of residents in nursing homes. NJBIA Vice President Mary Beaumont said the bill was problematic, in part because nursing homes cannot find enough CNAs to address their current needs. The bill is S-1612 (Stack, D-33; Gopal, D-11).

“A shortage exists in the pool of qualified, certified individuals needed to perform the duties of a certified nurse aide and fill the current number of open full- and part-time positions in New Jersey nursing homes,” Beaumont said. “Under this legislation, approximately 3,000 additional CNAs would need to be hired for nursing homes to meet the staffing requirements and be in compliance.”

Furthermore, legislating staffing levels is unnecessary because these are already established by the New Jersey Department of Health’s nursing home licensing requirements.

“Legislatively mandated staffing ratios assumes that all nursing home facilities are the same and does not take into account the experience or expertise of each facility’s caregivers,” Beaumont said.

Then there is the cost. “This legislation also would increase overall nursing home costs at a time when rising healthcare costs continue to be a top concern for all NJBIA members,” she said.

NJBIA places a strong and consistent focus on the quality and affordability of healthcare in our state, and there are ways to attract and retain a qualified workforce of CNAs that do not require artificial, restrictive staffing ratios.

To address the problem, Beaumont suggested the committee focus on ways to increase the number of CNAs available. In its recent report “The Education Equation: Strategies for Retraining and Attracting New Jersey’s Future Workforce,”  the NJBIA Postsecondary Education Task Force recommended enhanced promotion of New Jersey’s community colleges and vocational-technical schools, as well as the creation of new internship programs, job-training opportunities, and apprenticeship programs.

“There is also the opportunity for New Jersey to establish CNA reciprocity, so that individuals certified in other states can obtain certification here,” she said. “Without reciprocity, certified CNAs must retake and pay the cost for both a training program in New Jersey and the certification exam.”