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Documents Don't Support Use of Feeding Assistants in Nursing Homes
- May 27th, 2004
Documents finally released by the Bush administration offer no evidence to back up its earlier claim that using unskilled feeding assistants in nursing homes has been a success.
Last fall, the Bush administration announced it was relaxing nursing home regulations to allow low-wage workers receiving one day of training to feed patients who cannot feed themselves. See "Rule Allows Unskilled Workers to Feed Nursing Home Patients," Sept. 25, 2003.
Nursing homes, which face a severe labor shortage, had been seeking permission to hire such "feeding assistants." But patient advocates, including AARP, the Alzheimer's Association and the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC), maintained the change to allowing the hiring of part-time workers who could begin feeding patients on their own after completing an eight-hour training course could harm nursing home residents.
When releasing regulations authorizing the use of feeding assistants in nursing facilities, the Bush administration's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) claimed in the Federal Register that the use of such assistants was supported by the success of feeding assistant programs in North Dakota and Wisconsin. 68 Fed. Reg. 55528, 55529-30 (Sept. 26, 2003). But CMS did not respond to a Freedom of Information Act request from NSCLC for documentation to back up this claim.
In February 2004, NSCLC and the Center for Medicare Advocacy sued CMS for its failure to comply. On April 20, CMS finally began releasing documents. Of the more than 200 documents released so far, none contains any evidence of successful feeding-assistant programs in North Dakota or Wisconsin, says NSCLC. In fact, the documents reveal instead that the federal government told both North Dakota and Wisconsin that their feeding-assistant programs were illegal.
More on the feeding assistants issue can be found on the NSCLC Web site at http://www.nsclc.org/issues_health_feedasst.htm
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