JIS News

Better care is on the way for nursing home residents as well as stricter guidelines and more realistic fees and fines for operators of nursing homes following amendments to the Nursing Homes Registration Act in the Senate.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate and Minister of Information, Senator Burchell Whiteman, who piloted the Bill on Friday (Feb. 20) explained that nursing home care was a service provided almost totally by private individuals and as such the Bill sought to advance the process of improving the quality of care by establishing standards and requiring compliance to those standards.
He stated: “the ultimate purpose is to ensure and improve quality of care and the preservation of the best standards possible for the welfare of those who occupy and use our nursing homes and for those who work in them”.
The registration fee for the operation of nursing homes has been increased and is payable according to the bed capacity of each home. In addition, the Bill provides for biennial registration of homes and compulsory inspection for the purpose of registration or renewal of registration and the issue of a certificate of inspection.
Penalty fees have been increased from $100 to $30,000 and registration fees from 50 cents to $5,000 for homes with a bed capacity of 25 beds or fewer. Homes with a bed capacity of more than 25 beds will be required to pay $10,000.
Mr. Whiteman informed that the Ministry of Health, through its Standards and Regulatory Division had been engaged in a process of supporting the nursing homes that existed across the country, with the aim of ensuring that they become registered and that all of them comply with the standards.
The Ministry reports that in 2003, it visited 100 of the 117 homes in the island and that 122 inspections had been carried out. Senator Whiteman said the Ministry reported that there had been significant improvement on the part of most operators since the process of visits and information sharing and training began. He further informed that the Ministry had set out a number of guidelines, which were minimum standards under which nursing homes must operate.
These standards speak to sanitary convenience; the state of the physical plant; staff to resident ratio; safety devices and measures (including rails and fire extinguishers). Presently, some 80 per cent of the facilities have had grab bars installed; 74 per cent have a registered nurse supervising care; 53 per cent have disaster plans and 88 per cent have fire extinguishers and other fire prevention devices installed. “So, there are gaps, and these gaps have to be filled,” Mr. Whiteman stated.
As set out in the Bill, a certificate of registration unless previously cancelled, will be valid for two years and applications for renewal of registration must be made on the prescribed form to the Chief Medical Officer not later than 30 days before the date of expiration of the current certificate of registration.
Section two of the Bill alters the definition of a nursing home to include any public or regional hospital under the National Health Services Act or any premises being controlled by a local authority and psychiatric facility within the meaning of the Mental Health Act. Senator Whiteman later gave Opposition Senator Shirley Williams the assurance that the House would seek to include the Ministry’s guidelines in the regulations to ensure enforcement.
“The Ministry is continuing to extend its reach to revisit the application of the standards, in terms of all the institutions,” Minister Whiteman added.
In support of the Bill, Opposition Senator Dwight Nelson pointed out that Jamaica’s senior citizens were aging rapidly with the number of persons over 60 moving from 54,000 in 1950 to 267,000 in 2002.
He further stated that presently, almost 11 per cent of the total population was between 55 and 75 years old. “So, it behoves us to ensure that with a rapidly aging population, that institutions which exist to provide care to this section of the population are in fact institutions which provide standards which are comparable anywhere and do dignity to the residents”.

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