BOSTON (WWLP) – The legislature is considering reforms to nursing homes. The state is seeing a shortage in staffing at nursing homes and a bill on Beacon Hill is looking to retain and attract new workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on problems nursing homes face daily. The omnibus nursing home bill would attack many of those issues, starting with pay.

The bill, An Act to Improve Quality and Oversight of Long-Term Care, would increase pay for staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. At a hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, advocates pointed to the extreme responsibility and relatively low wages nurses face as to why there is such turnover in the industry.

The bill would increase Medicaid rates for the nursing home industry to bring wages up. The Massachusetts Senior Care Association said there are more than 3,000 licensed beds that are unavailable due to staffing and 8,000 job vacancies. Because of this, many facilities are racking up costs to pay nurses working overtime.

They are also turning to traveling and temporary health care workers to fill in the gaps. These workers are often paid more than their co-workers, adding to the fiscal strain on health care facilities.

The legislation did take on the Health Policy Commissions recommendation to include career ladders for lower-paid workers to advance their careers through the support of their employers.

The bill also includes increased penalties for nursing home workers or caregivers who commit neglect or abuse.