Florida bill would expand PCA program; alleviate staffing issues

A bill in Florida that would lower the required qualifications to be employed as a personal care attendant at a nursing home facility has been referred to the Finance and Facilities Subcommittee. Supporters of the bill hope it will alleviate staffing issues nursing homes have faced in recent years.

Representative Sam Garrison , introduced HB 485 in January. The bill was referred to committee this month.

 

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The bill would permanently expand the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program instituted by Gov. Ron DeSantis when he declared a state of emergency last year.  Garrison hopes his bill will create a permanent solution to nursing home staffing issues:

“Florida’s long-term care facilities have experienced workforce challenges for many years … The [PCA] program has helped expand the long-term care workforce by creating a pathway for individuals to learn basic skills through an eight hour training course and continued on-the-job training in collaboration with a certified nursing assistant and under supervision of a nurse.

Caring for seniors in long-term care is a moral issue for me. I filed this bipartisan legislation to ensure Florida’s long term care facilities, and the seniors who rely on them, will continue to have the resources they need once the Governor’s emergency order expires.”

Those authorized to work in a nursing home under the PCA program must pass the certified nursing exam after four months. If they fail to do so they can no longer work as a PCA. Garrison told State of Reform that 85% of those that have taken the exam after working as a PCA have passed.

If HB 485 does not pass, then the program will end when the governor’s state of emergency expires.

Long-term care staffing has always been a challenge, even before the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue, according to experts. Programs like PCA have helped, though critics fear that expanding the program could lead to a lower quality of care for seniors living in the facilities.