Stern announces legislative package on nursing home reform

Signal file photo of the state's Capitol building in Sacramento

Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, along with other California lawmakers and a coalition of workers and advocates for the elderly and people with disabilities, unveiled a legislative reform package Tuesday that aims to make nursing homes safer.

“(A) nursing home was the most dangerous place to live and to work during this pandemic … because our nursing home system is broken, trapping patients and families in a system that’s driven solely by profit, not by quality care for those who need it,” Stern, whose district includes western portions of the Santa Clarita Valley, said during a livestreamed press conference Tuesday. “In many of these cases, people are seen as numbers and not as our mothers, our fathers, our sisters and brothers.”

One in four COVID-19 deaths in California has been in a nursing home, which equates to 23% of the state’s total deaths, according to California Department of Public Health data.

The seven-bill legislative package, dubbed “The PROTECT Plan,” is set to launch an intensive campaign to increase nursing home accountability.

Of the bills is Senate Bill 650, which is authored by Stern, would require nursing homes to file annual consolidated financial statements, giving the state and the public more transparency for nursing home payments.

The bill also would require nursing home management and property companies to submit audited financial reports.

Other bills included in the package are set to enhance the state nursing home enforcement system by updating and increasing citation penalties, increasing facility liability for resident rights violations, prohibiting nursing home resident evictions during the pandemic, and reforming ownership and management of skilled nursing facilities, among others.

During the press conference, lawmakers were joined by workers and family members of nursing home patients, each of whom shared stories of the struggles they’ve faced in getting proper level of care for patients, along with fair treatment for workers — all problems they say have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Caregivers put our lives on the line every day to protect the eldest and most vulnerable patients in this pandemic, and we didn’t have enough support, protection or staff,” said Maria Ferguson, a 20-year certified nurse assistant. “The pandemic has made clear that nursing homes must be transformed. They must begin to put caring for people above making money. We can never let this happen again.”

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