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Flagstaff nursing home director fears how staffing mandates will affect facility

Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released a proposed rule to require federally-regulated nursing homes meet certain staffing mandates. Arizona has 143 of them. 

Heather Hudson is the executive director at Haven Health in Prescott. The city is home to five skilled nursing facilities.

"Prescott is a big retirement community," said Hudson. "So, workforce wise, we're taking care of a big retirement type group."

But Prescott is also expensive and finding staff is already difficult. The proposed mandate also means having a registered nurse on staff 24 hours a day — and RNs are another staffing challenge. Currently, places like Haven Health rely on licensed practical nurses or LPNs.

"Right now, it's a little unclear if LPNs will even count towards your nursing hours. And I think that that's going to be a big impact to the nursing community as a whole, not just long term care," she explained.

It could mean having to let go of multiple LPNs to hire RNs.

Full AARP statement from Sept. 1

AARP Statement on New CMS Proposal to Require Minimum Nursing Home Staffing Levelsl

WASHINGTON — AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond issued the following statement in response to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposal to require federal minimum staffing levels in nursing homes.

“COVID-19 revealed what AARP and other advocates have been saying for decades: the lack of standards and poor-quality care in too many of America’s nursing homes is deadly. Far too many Americans died in those facilities, which have been plagued with problems for many years. Today’s proposal is an important step to establish a minimum nursing home staffing standard. We are pleased the proposal would require nursing homes to have a registered nurse on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. AARP will continue to fight to ensure every person living in a nursing home can live in dignity and get the care they deserve.”

Meanwhile, resident advocates say staffing mandates are a critical step to improving patient care.

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Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.