Regulations frustrate care workers

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 15, 1999

Nursing home workers expressed concerns Monday about regulations and other problems that the industry faces.

Friday, October 15, 1999

Nursing home workers expressed concerns Monday about regulations and other problems that the industry faces. About 150 attended Monday’s forum in Stewartville, including Sue Johnson, the assistant administrator with St. John’s Lutheran Home.

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While some might have viewed it as a gripe session, Johnson said she thinks the forum helped address concerns. She remains hopeful that solutions are in sight.

&uot;It was an excellent opportunity for people to give testimony about the concerns people have,&uot; she said.

Because the forum was organized by U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., and well attended by other state officials, Johnson believes the message will get through.

&uot;Our representatives are interested in our concerns and dedicated to finding a solution,&uot; she said.

Foremost, nursing home workers are troubled by heavy regulations imposed on them by the state and federal governments, Johnson said.

&uot;This is the most regulated industry, and sometimes that encumbers us,&uot; she explained. There’s a great deal of paperwork and documentation, she added.

&uot;People will say, ‘I became a nurse to help people, not push a pencil,’&uot; Johnson said.

She feels that sometimes nurses aren’t able to fully care for patients when they’re buried in paperwork.

Strict regulations and stiff fines have hurt morale at some long-term health care agencies and threatened to force others out of business, Dr. Kevin Fleming of the Mayo Clinic said Monday.

Poor wages and severe punishment for minor violations also have killed morale at health care facilities, Fleming said.

”If workers get beat up enough, they don’t want to come back,” he said.

However, Johnson said. &uot;I’m not sure that wages are the top issue.&uot;

It all goes back to regulations, she said. &uot;Reimbursement is set by the state.&uot;

The state determines how much nursing homes can charge both private clients and those who receive state assistance.

Statewide, concerns about bed side rails and regulations still persist.

Last year, the state Health Department began strict enforcement of a federal rule limiting side rails on nursing home beds. The rule allows side rails only when ”medically necessary.” The devices were linked to patients’ deaths and injuries, but some have complained about injuries to patients because the restraints weren’t used.

In April, the federal government rescinded fines against nine Minnesota nursing homes accused of improper use of bedside rails or other restraints. The federal agency said the state erred in thinking the side rails were forbidden and that fines were mandatory.

A new Minnesota law allows nursing home residents or their families to request side rails on beds.

Johnson believes the state and federal agencies can find ways to ease other regulations.

&uot;Minnesota has always led the nation in health care,&uot; she said. &uot;We have quality outcomes. I hope they can see that and ease regulations so we can go back to providing care.&uot;