State senators have decided to indefinitely defer a bill that would have added several new requirements on state veterans homes and nursing homes after dozens testified that the bill mostly asked them to make reforms already in place — and potentially created new problems in the long term.
Keith Ridley, director of the Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance, told lawmakers that much of the provisions outlined in Senate Bill 237“is a duplication of what is already required at both the state and federal level.”
Ridley noted that a provision requiring a new hotline for complaints might require additional resources for staffing, adding that “this is something we could do without this bill.”
Paige Choy, director of government affairs for the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said that the bill could make measures in place for the pandemic permanent — potentially making health care slower and more burdensome in the long term.
“It might actually put a squeeze on our labor pool, and we do already have a shortage of staff,” said Choy, adding that facilities have had to bring in workers from the mainland. Choy also noted that infections and deaths in nursing homes are already declining across the U.S. as vaccinations become more widely available.
Of 30 health care administrators and medical professionals who submitted written testimony on the bill, only two wrote in support.
The bill was initially written to address concerns after the deadly outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo that killed 27 people last year. An investigation by both state officials and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found serious problems, including that staff allowed patients with dementia to wander the facility and spread the virus.
Kevin Knodell reported on the military and veterans for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported topics.