Department of Health announces proposed rulemaking for Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities 

Ioannis Pashakis//October 14, 2021

Department of Health announces proposed rulemaking for Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities 

Ioannis Pashakis//October 14, 2021

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is holding a public comment period for a package of proposed nursing home regulations for new construction, alterations and renovations of skilled nursing facilities.

If the new rulemaking is approved, the department would adopt the 2018 edition of the Facility Guidelines Institute’s (FGI) Guidelines for Design and Construction of Residential Health, Care and Support Facilities as the minimum standard for alterations, renovations or construction plans.

The guidelines are updated every four years and are considered a gold standard for the planning, designing and construction of health care facilities, according to a bulletin by the DOH.

Facilities would not need to immediately update their facilities to fall in line with the new FGI Guidelines, which the department says would impose an undue burden on Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities. Instead, the guidelines would only be in effect for facilities performing new alterations, renovations or construction.

“A facility completing new alterations, renovations or construction is already assuming the costs for those alterations, renovations or construction,” wrote the department in the bulletin. “Therefore, requiring compliance with the FGI Guidelines would be considered costs already planned for by the facility, and no different than costs for complying with other physical environment standards, local municipality codes or the like.”

The proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s regulations are the second in a series of five planned waves of regulation updates by the DOH. They are the first changes of their kind to the department’s long-term care nursing facilities regulations since 1999.

In its first proposed rulemaking, the department looked to expand the adoption of a number of federal requirements in order to make the state’s requirements more consistent with what is expected nationally.

To create these regulation updates, the DOH has worked with a long-term care work group (LTC Work Group) consisting of relevant stakeholders from local organizations such as Landis Communities, Leading Age, Pennsylvania Home Care Associations are more.

“The Wolf Administration is looking at long-term care in a comprehensive manner and we are committed to getting the proposed updated regulations through the regulatory review process by the end of 2022,” said Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam. “Skilled nursing facility regulations have not been updated in nearly 25 years. Given the magnitude and importance of the regulations for more than 72,000 nursing home residents and their families, publishing the proposed updates in a series of separate, smaller packages will allow each section the opportunity for appropriate feedback during the public comment period.”