Bill backs certifying nurse aides
The profession ought to require regulation, says the state auditor
State lawmakers are ready to pass legislation to require certification of many nurse aides.
In an analysis of the profession, the state auditor recommended yesterday that all nurse aides undergo state certification.
Such a report is required by law before the state can regulate professions for the first time.
Currently, only those working in Medicare- or Medicaid-certified facilities must be certified by the state.
Conferees submitted a proposal Friday to the House and Senate for final approval. Lawmakers will be able to vote on House Bill 71, HD 2, SD 2, CD 1, as early as today.
The bill would require certification of only those nurse aides who work in facilities licensed or certified by the state or certified by Medicare or Medicaid. Not covered in the proposal are nurse aides who work in physicians' offices or home care placement agencies or are self-employed.
"It's unfortunate the report came out within 24 hours of us taking a final vote," said Rep. Josh Green, House Health Committee chairman.
Green said he has not read the report, but promises the public will get an opportunity to comment on it.
Auditor Marion Higa said staffing shortages prevented her from completing and releasing the report earlier. Lawmakers approved a resolution last year asking for the report.
Since 1990 the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs had been certifying all nurse aides in Hawaii, not just those who work in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities as required by federal law.
But in 2004 the department discontinued certification of nurse aides not working in Medicare and Medicaid facilities because of problems funding training and recertification.
There are 8,963 certified nurse aides in Hawaii, according to the auditor's report. Of that number, 2,726 work in Medicare- or Medicaid-certified facilities.
The report says regulation of all nurse aides is necessary to protect the public from harm.