June 29, 2020

On June 24, 2020, the Georgia Senate approved HB 987. The bill provides additional measures of protection for residents of assisted living facilities and personal care homes. The bill had previously passed the Georgia House, and now moves to Governor Brian Kemp for his signature. Governor Kemp is expected to sign the bill, which requires that all affected facilities come into compliance with the new standards by July 1, 2021.

Among the more important provisions of the bill are the following:

  • Fines: Increases the maximum fines for violations cited by the Department of Community Health (DCH) to up to $2,000 per day for each violation. The Bill also imposes a mandatory fine of no less than $5,000 for a violation that has caused death or serious physical harm to a resident.
  • Nursing Services: Requires that the facility include a nurse on-staff member who will evaluate the level of care and medical needs of each resident.
  • Additional Staffing Requirements
    • Personal care homes with 25 or more beds and assisted living communities are required to have a minimum on-site staffing ratio of one direct care staff person for every 15 residents during all waking hours and 20 during non-waking hours.
    • A personal care home must also secure the services of a licensed pharmacist to perform certain duties.
    • Assisted living communities must have at least two on-site direct care staff persons at all times.
    • Assisted living communities must have a registered professional nurse or licensed practical nurse on-site. The hours required vary by facility size.

The bill includes requirements for Memory Care Centers. All Memory Care Centers must obtain a certificate for operation by July 1, 2021. Memory Care Centers will be required to employ or contract with a direct care person for every 12 residents, with a minimum of two direct care staff at all times. Facilities must also ensure that a registered or practical nurse or CMA is on site at all times. In addition, the Bill includes a requirement that all staff receive training in working with individuals with dementia.

The bill seeks to protect residents from the repercussions of a facility’s financial instability. It requires that an applicant for facility permit must include certification of its ability to operate for two years. Facilities will also be required to notify the DCH if the facility files for bankruptcy protection. In addition, a facility must give DCH 14 days’ advance written notice of a change of ownership that may involve the relocation of any residents.

The Senate Bill added language addressing readiness for future outbreaks of COVID-19 or similar pandemics. The Senate version requires facilities to develop a pandemic plan, purchase and maintain an adequate short-term supply of personal protective gear, and develop a plan for testing residents and staff. 

For additional guidance for complying with these new regulations, please contact a Polsinelli attorney.