The New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would require a specific ratio of nurses-to-patients in nursing homes.
Senate Bill 1612, co-sponsored by state Senator Brian Stack, D–33rd District, was passed Sunday 21-15, and will head to the state Assembly for a vote. The bill would require nursing homes to have an nursing aide to every eight residents during day time hours, and one nurse for every 16 patients during night time hours.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association said that if passed, nursing homes would be forced to bear the cost of hiring a significant number of new nurses.
"Under this bill, approximately 3,000 additional certified nurse assistants would need to be hired in order to meet new nursing home staffing ratio requirements, even though there is a shortage of qualified CNAs right now to fill currently open positions," said Chrissy Buteas, NJBIA’s chief government affairs officer, said in an email. “There are other ways to attract and retain a qualified workforce of CNAs that do not require artificial, restrictive staffing ratios that fail to take into account the level of experience of the caregivers already working at nursing homes.”
But NJ Safe Ratios, a grass roots coalition of nurses in the state, said: “This is a huge step forward and shows the power we have as health care workers when we organize together for justice and fight for quality care, The bill now heads to the Assembly for its final vote, so over the next several weeks we have to stay mobilized and continue to make our voices heard. Let’s do this and make history!”
Service Employees International Union #1199, the union representing nurses in the state, and NJ Safe Ratios applauded the bill, and is hoping its passage can pave the way for Senate Bill 989, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-19th District, which would require minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in all hospitals and ambulatory centers.
The New Jersey State Nurses Association, however, is against the bill, saying that the minimum nurse-to-patient ratios should be set by hospitals and nurses, and not the state.