Gov. DeSantis signs bill changing nursing home staffing requirements, visitation rules

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s changes to nursing homes, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis Wednesday, are already drawing criticism.


Sponsors of Senate Bill 988, titled the “No Patient Left Alone Act,” argue it will ensure visitation rights for hospitalized Floridians, and lead to more accountability for caregivers.

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Critics say it only reduces standards of care.

“Very simply, what this bill does is reduce the minimum standards for staff at nursing homes by twenty percent,” Florida AARP Director Jeff Johnson said. “We have to hope that is enough, but hope is not a strategy.”

There are currently 277 nursing homes in Florida on the state’s watch list because they’re facing bankruptcy protection or have failed to meet minimum standards.

Thanks to the new state law, they’ll enjoy lower minimum standards.

Supporters of the bill argue the change was necessary because of the shortage of nurses Florida has been facing for years.

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The new law would alleviate some of that crunch by reducing patient hours by a half-hour a day, while allowing other staff- not just registered nurses- to provide direct care.

It would also close a loophole in state law that has allowed bad actors to avoid legal responsibility by simply selling problematic nursing homes.

“All they have to do is liquidate and sell the business to another operator, and pending claims or unpaid judgements go unsatisfied,” Attorney Mel Wright explained.

Wright has been representing patients for more than two decades. He notes that nursing homes have been able to avoid litigation by simply transferring ownership. The new law puts a stop to that.

“It is not air-tight, but it’s much improved over what it was,” Wright said.

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Industry groups point out that the guidelines in the law are just minimums for staffing, and nursing homes can always add more.

They also note that there are still federal guidelines for care that must be followed.

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