Dept. of Health announces public comment period for proposed nursing home regulations

Regional News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) – The Pennsylvania Department of Health provided an update recently on the second package of proposed nursing home regulations that includes updates to align with federal regulations, and addresses new construction, alterations, and renovations of skilled nursing facilities. This package of proposed regulations was published in the Pennsylvania BulletinOpens In A New Window on Oct. 9. At that time, a 30-day public comment period started.

“The continued revision of nursing home regulations is one major component of the administration’s ongoing effort to improve care for residents and working conditions for staff in nursing homes,” said Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam.

The department encourages all interested stakeholders, including industry groups, resident advocates and the general public to read and comment on the proposed regulations within this time period. The regulations are published both on the Pennsylvania Bulletin website and the IRRC website and comments may be submitted to the Department of Health via email: RA-DHLTCRegs@pa.gov.  

This is the second in a series of five packages of proposed regulations that are based on the latest research, input from subject matter experts and industry stakeholders, and informed by lessons learned during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The second package of proposed regulations focuses on standards for alterations, renovations, and construction as well as aligning with federal regulations related to the closure of facilities, ice containers, and storage.

Like many industries, however, nursing homes are faced with severe staffing shortages. And with mandates around health care workers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, Paula Felton-Werner, the CEO of Christ the King Manor nursing home in DuBois said finding staff, as well as retaining those already employed is an issue they say we need to be focusing on.

“We need the support and funding to go in partnership to actually get people to come to work,” Felton-Werner said. “We’re certainly open to figuring that out together, but imposing additional restrictions and regulations upon A very regulated industry is a very big burden.”

“It creates an additional stressor to recruit other staff members and/or current staff members that are not in favor of getting the vaccine,” she added.

“The Wolf Administration is looking at long-term care in a comprehensive manner and we are committed to getting the proposed updated regulations through the regulatory review process by the end of 2022,” added Beam. “Skilled nursing facility regulations have not been updated in nearly 25 years. Given the magnitude and importance of the regulations for more than 72,000 nursing home residents and their families, publishing the proposed updates in a series of separate, smaller packages will allow each section the opportunity for appropriate feedback during the public comment period.”

The department is concurrently working on the next three packages of proposed regulations that will include proposed updates to other critical topics including change of ownership, staff development, and staffing ratios. These packages will follow the same process for public comment as the first two packages of proposed updates.

The Department of Health plans to submit the final-form regulations once proposed packages of updates move through the state’s regulatory review process. The regulations will apply only to the 688 skilled nursing facilities licensed by the Department of Health. Personal care homes and assisted living homes typically housing residents with less acute health care needs are regulated by the Department of Human Services under separate regulations. 

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