Nursing home administrators in Florida are hopeful a new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week will help address labor shortages in the long-term care industry.
House Bill 245 created the Personal Care Attendants program, which means workers without the proper nursing assistant certification can now temporarily work at nursing homes and residential care facilities if they meet training and education requirements.
Personal care attendants will receive on-the-job training and must become a certified nursing assistant within four months of their hiring to continue working at the facility. The law counts consecutive time spent at the same facility.
Members of the Florida Health Care Association celebrated the new program Thursday at the Palm Garden nursing home in Jacksonville.
FHCA Executive Director Emmet Reed thanked two of the bipartisan bill’s Northeast Florida sponsors, state Rep. Sam Garrison, R-Fleming Island, and state Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.
“We’re so grateful to have Senator Bean and Representative Garrison here today to celebrate this important investment in the long-term care workforce,” Reed said. “It has been a tough year, and it’s still tough for those of us in long-term care, but we’re tougher.”
The coronavirus pandemic has plagued almost every sector of the economy and caused dramatic labor shortages, including in long-term care.
The most recent jobs report showed more than 20,000 jobs in nursing homes and residential care facilities were lost — 19,000 in April and 2,400 in May.
“Even before the pandemic hit, workforce was our main challenge,” Palm Garden Vice President Luke Neumann said.
Neumann said Palm Gardens operate 14 centers throughout the state, with a nursing workforce of about 2,000 companywide.
“On any given day, 10 percent of those positions are vacant,” he said.