The 2020 Legislative Session is finally complete, and the budget was signed by Governor Kemp on June 30. During the final two weeks of session from June 13-26, the General Assembly worked hard to complete the budget, and we were also thrilled to pass some noteworthy legislation. One piece of legislation that I am especially proud of was a priority for the Republican House Caucus and one of our focal points for the session. House Bill 987, signed by Governor Kemp on June 30, protects elderly Georgians in assisted living or nursing home facilities, and it ensures that the care received in these facilities is of the highest quality. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the seriousness of the outbreaks in Georgia nursing homes made this issue even more pressing. For all of these reasons, HB 987, sponsored by my great friend Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, was one of the bills that I was most honored to vote for this year.
HB 987 addresses the quality of care delivered in personal care homes and assisted living facilities. This legislation increases training requirements for staff providing direct care for elderly individuals in personal care homes with more than twenty-five beds or assisted living facilities. Facilities are now required to have at least one direct care staff member on-site for every fifteen patients during waking hours and for every twenty patients during sleeping hours and a minimum of two on-site direct care staff members at all times.
Assisted living facilities are required to maintain at least two direct care staff members at all times. Assisted living facilities must have an RN or LPN on-site for a minimum of eight hours per week and up to forty hours per week, depending on how many individuals are in the facility. Additional certification requirements for memory care facilities include having at least one dementia-trained staff member on-site for every twelve individuals in the facility.
An essential addition to this legislation was a notification requirement when a facility has a case of COVID-19. If a case of COVID-19 is found at a facility, the facility must inform patients and their representatives by 5:00 P.M. the next day. Additionally, the facilities must maintain a minimum seven-day supply of PPE and develop a pandemic plan.
Serious disruptions in patient care have occurred when nursing homes and assisted living facilities go into bankruptcy or change ownership. This legislation requires that notice be given to the Georgia Department of Community Health when a facility goes into bankruptcy or changes ownership in a way that will disrupt patient care. Additionally, licensure requirements will include the submission of an affidavit to DCH affirming a facility’s financial ability to operate for at least two years. Finally, this legislation imposes penalties of at least $5,000.00 for violations, and maximum daily fines are increased from $1,000.00 to $2,000.00.
In the unprecedented times that we have all recently faced, our local nursing homes and assisted living homes have faced very difficult times, and we appreciate the important work that they do in providing quality care for the residents of our district. Thank you all for allowing me to represent Georgia House District 159. It is truly an honor to work for you and this great state. If you have any feedback, do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail (Jon.Burns@house.ga.gov), or engage on Facebook (www.facebook.com/JonBurnsGA). If you would like to receive email updates, please visit my website to sign up for my newsletter or email me.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly where he serves as the House majority leader.