The Connecticut Legislature’s Public Health Committee has overwhelmingly approved House Bill 5499, which if approved by the full legislature will regulate the establishment of 24-hour hospice facilities.
The bill, which has more than 50 bi-partisan co-sponsors, has passed the Public Health Committee by a 26-0 vote with two members absent. It still must pass muster before the state Senate before it can become law, but proponents say they are very encouraged by the support it has received thus far.
The bill enables providers of Hospice care to move into the realm now dominated by the nursing home industry, although hospice facilities as envisioned by HB 5499 would serve far fewer residents per facility.
Hospice care is for terminal patients, both the elderly and those who are suffering from terminal diseases, and includes services such as doctor and nursing care, nutritional assistance, home care aides, social workers, and religious support.
Hospice assistance as originally envisioned offered assistance to terminal patients in-home, although it also is available in other circumstances as well. Supporters of HB 5499 are seeking to extend these services to inpatient facilities located throughout the state, for dying patients and their families.
Despite the overwhelming support for the bill thus far, the extended hospice care proposal is not without its detractors.
For instance, Fairfield resident Catharine A. Henningsen, a writer specializing in the business of elder care, wrote to CTWatchdog this week that contrary to proponents’ claims that the proposed regulations would preserve hospital standard of care and establish regulatory oversight, “In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. HB5499 seeks to reduce the regulations governing hospice care to dangerous levels.
In point of fact, the proposed hospice residences could be opened under the existing regulations governing hospice care, but instead those seeking to open these residences want the services and benefits they are required to provide for patients reduced as much as possible so that they can keep as much of every Medicare and Medicaid hospice dollar as they can.
If HB5499 is passed, these hospice residences will no longer be required to medically evaluate new patients for up to 48 hrs. Following admission, they will no longer be required to have a doctor on the premises, or a pharmacist or a pharmacy.
It would also obviate all existing state requirements for patient-to-staff ratios for nurses and aides. As far as regulatory oversight, these hospice residences might be inspected by the state on an annual basis–Far less than hospices are inspected currently. That will be far too late for any dying patient being neglected or abused as a result of reduced benefits and staffing levels.”
Henningsen is the author of, “Should Shareholder Concerns Govern End-of-Life Care,” and is writing a book on the rise of the for-profit hospice industry in the U.S. entitled, PREDATORS AT DEATH’S DOOR.
The legislature has a deadline of May 9 to act on the final version of the bill. The full text of the bill and recent activity on it can be found at http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/TOB/H/2012HB-05499-R01-HB.htm
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