Three and a half years ago, state lawmakers passed a law that would limit a resident's ability to sue a nursing home for negligence or abuse, but in return the state also increased the standard amount of time nursing aides spend each day with a resident.
Debra Boatwright is the nurse manager at the St. Andrews Health and Rehabilitation Center in Panama City. She says the increase of hours meant an increase of staff working each day.
"We can spend more quality time with the residents and the resident's family. A lot of education goes with that and we'll teach the family what we're doing and how they can better help us to make the quality of life for the resident better."
Staff time with each resident increased from 1.7 hours a day to 2.9 hours over a three-year period, but the three years is up and lawmakers have yet to implement the last increase from 2.6 to 2.9 hours.
"I've been here for almost 14 years and I think the care that we give is exactly the same. The only difference is with the new staffing ratios we have more time to spend with the patients."
Because the state's Medicaid program picks up the extra cost for Medicaid patients, lawmakers aren't eager to continue the increase of hours for staff members.
They aren't the only ones paying for the increase of staff. Residents who aren't on the state Medicaid program have to pay for the extra care they are required to have.
"In the nursing home industry, our focus is not so much on curing as it is on prevention and maintaining to help the resident be as functioning as they possibly can for as long as they possibly can."
If the state delays the increase of hours spent with each nursing home resident, they will save $65 million for the upcoming budget year.