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1st ever staffing rules finalized for federally funded nursing homes, including in Arizona

Coverage of aging is supported in part by AARP Arizona

The Biden administration has finalized the first ever minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding — that includes 143 facilities in Arizona. 

Facilities will soon have to provide almost 3-and-a-half hours of nursing care per resident, per day. 

Sam Brooks, with the National Consumer Voice, a resident advocacy group, says the best way to understand how those hours translate is through the lens of resident/staff ratios.

"So the way that breaks down is roughly 8-and-a-half or 9 to 1 for CNAs. … It is a big increase … Right now, looking at the data, it’s about 12 or 13 to 1 for CNAs."

CNAs or certified nursing assistants are on the frontlines of long term care. Brooks called the staffing rule a first step. 

Staffing crisis

David Voepel is the CEO of the Arizona chapter of the American Health Care Association, which called the rules an “unfunded staffing mandate.” 

"The question for us is, where do we find the staff at because we’re in a staffing crisis," Voepel said.

Voepel says the crisis is hitting rural communities hardest. 

"The good news about this is that the rural facilities will have a longer ramp up period, so this doesn’t have to be tomorrow," Voepel said.

The White House says adequate staffing is strongly associated with safety and good care outcomes. 

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KJZZ 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.