(KTEN)--Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a proposed rule for nursing homes to enforce a national minimum nurse staffing standard that exceeds existing standards in nearly every state. 

“We are being asked to hire more RNs, and they just don’t exist in our state,” said Steven Buck, the President of Care Providers Oklahoma. 

The proposal would require nursing homes that care for Medicare and Medicaid patients to meet specific nurse staffing levels. 

Facilities would need to provide each resident with 33 minutes of care from a Registered Nurse per day and two hours and 27 minutes of care from a nurse aide per day. 

“As it was put forward in this initial phase, it would create a very significant challenge in Oklahoma,” Buck said.  “We currently don't have the workers, and now our providers are being asked to employ 700-900 additional RNs in a state that continues to trail the nation regarding RN availability.”  

An administrator with the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services said this was an important first step to propose new staffing requirements that will hold nursing homes accountable and make sure that residents get the safe, high-quality care that they deserve.

Buck believes that if the mandate is finalized, some rural facilities may need help to keep up. 

“You will have buildings primarily in the rural areas that will not be able to meet the required staffing ratios as it relates to RN coverage and will be unable to provide that level of coverage,” Buck said. “The buildings will significantly restrict coverage or simply close, and in either case, it would be a loss of access to care for seniors across Oklahoma.”

The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services estimates that 75 percent of nursing homes nationwide would have to strengthen staffing to meet these requirements.