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Speight Bill Requiring Greater Oversight of Nursing Homes Now Law

With the goal of ensuring greater oversight of nursing homes – especially those with ongoing compliance issues – a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Shanique Speight to hold facilities accountable for significant deficiencies was signed into law Tuesday.

The bipartisan-sponsored law (formerly bill A-4478) states that nursing homes cited for F-level or higher deficiencies at any point over a three-year period during which a survey or inspection is conducted will be subject to a penalty that is more severe than the penalty they received for a previous violation. F-level deficiencies, as defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, indicate widespread issues that have the potential to cause harm but do not pose an immediate threat. Higher level deficiencies indicate even greater urgency.

If the nursing home’s violation involves noncompliance with infection control requirements or if it results in severe adverse health consequences for residents and/or staff, the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) will be permitted to impose additional penalties, sanctions or corrective measures pursuant to regulation.

To help facilitate the enforcement of these rules, the DOH will be required to consolidate information in pursuit of increased transparency regarding conditions in nursing homes. Nursing home services will be required to meet national standards of quality, which includes mandatory reporting on any infectious spread and prevention measures being taken.

The DOH will also be required to take steps to standardize and consolidate nursing home reporting requirements to make it easier for them to comply with said requirements. This will involve the establishment of standard formats and protocols for data reporting, the creation of a workgroup to monitor nursing home reporting, the assessment of nursing homes’ IT needs, and the elimination of redundant reporting requirements – among other activities.

The DOH must then create a data dashboard on its website with updated information on each nursing home, including the facility’s star rating, total number of complaints, general staffing levels, and the number of infections acquired in the home. Each nursing home must link to this dashboard on their own websites to make it easier for the public to access this information.

Upon the bill becoming law, Assembly Democrat Speight (D-Essex) issued the following statement:

“The alarming impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nursing homes has forced our state to ask some tough questions, such as why facilities are allowed to accept new residents when they cannot meet basic health and safety standards or why homes with repeated violations have failed to make critical changes. There are no easy answers, but we must begin by enforcing stricter penalties and increasing the accuracy and transparency of our reporting. The vulnerable residents in our nursing homes deserve better, and this is how we can help ensure they receive proper care going forward.”