ANNAPOLIS – Increasing the amount of care patients receive and boosting Medicaid reimbursement to hire more workers were recommendations highlighted by a legislative panel on quality nursing home care in Maryland Thursday.
The Task Force on Quality of Care in Nursing Homes reviewed the first draft of a report for Gov. Parris Glendening. The draft included recommendations that target staffing shortages, quality improvement, training, patient rights and inspections.
Patients should be guaranteed a minimum of four hours of nursing care a day, up from two hours, the panel agreed.
Patients should also receive at least three hours of care each day from unlicensed staff, such as certified nursing assistants and medical aides, committee members suggested. There is no mandate in the law currently for unlicensed staff.
To replenish staff shortages and wages, the panel discussed using Medicaid money.
“The Medicaid reimbursement system needs to provide incentives to encourage nursing homes to provide higher wages to nurses and nursing assistants,” said Mark Woodard, lawyer and vice president for Health Facilities Association of Maryland, which represents 155 nursing homes.
The panel also heard testimony from Delegate Sue Hecht, D- Frederick, whose mother is a resident of a private, non-profit church facility.
Hecht’s mother has pneumonia that could have been prevented if the home’s staff complied with her requests for tests, she said.
Staff shortages are humiliating and expensive, Hecht said.
The nursing home charged Hecht $75 for bed pads, she said because her mother doesn’t receive staff assistance to go to the bathroom.
“My mother does not suffer from incontinence – she suffers from neglect,” Hecht said.
Her mother relieved herself in a trashcan and another woman used a plastic eyeglass case as a bedpan, Hecht said.
“We are killing their spirits and are neglecting their bodies,” said Hecht.
Although she is not a member of the task force, Hecht said she will push for legislation requiring surveillance cameras in nursing homes and a fair wage bill that will help direct-care and other employees.
The task force expects to finalize the report by the end of December, missing a Dec. 1 deadline. The report will recommend legislation to the governor for introduction in the General Assembly session that begins in January, said Sue Ward, chairwoman of the task force and secretary of the Maryland Department of Aging.
The panel was formed after a U.S. General Accounting Office report criticized Maryland nursing homes for failing to investigate complaints promptly, limiting the filing of complaints and understating the seriousness of complaints.