The San Juan Daily Star
House Social Welfare Committee reviews Elderly Care Bill
By John McPhaul
The Committee on Social Welfare and Aging Affairs held a public hearing Monday to address Senate Bill 1063 which seeks to create the Law to Regulate the Licensing and Supervision of Care Facilities for the Elderly and Adults with Frailty Conditions and repeal Law 94 known as the Law of Establishments for the Elderly.
“Law 94 has been amended 13 times to temper it to the circumstances of the moment. The history of the amendments shows that it is necessary to establish a new legal order with new approaches that allow us to meet the demands of our older adults. Senate Bill 1063 aims to serve not only the elderly, but also those who have fragile conditions that have not yet reached the age of 60. Each of the care they need includes minimum, intermediate and maximum levels, and are a starting point to license the centers that offer care services to this population so that they are regulated by the Department of the Family and the Department of Health,” said the chairwoman of the committee, Rosamar Trujillo Plumey.
On the one hand, the secretary of the Department of the Family (DF), Carmen González Magaz, explained in her presentation that the agency has the power to evaluate, license and supervise all establishments that are dedicated to the care of older adults in Puerto Rico by virtue of Law 94. However, the legal system does not provide that the Family can license establishments that are dedicated to the care of persons with disabilities or fragile conditions.
“With this pressing social need, the Department of the Family received, in 2021, 102 dispensations, and for the current year 125 have been received requesting that people with disabilities can receive care services in licensed facilities for older adults. For this reason, we emphasize the urgent need to establish a law that regulates the services provided to this population that represents an important sector in our society,” said González Magaz.
Likewise, the DF emphasized that they have expertise to license homes that house people who have physical situations. Psychological or other care is the responsibility of the Department of Health and the Mental Health and Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA by its Spanish acronym). Also, the administrator of the agency added that, as of February of this year, they subsidized 4,894 older adults.
Although they endorse the measure, the legal advisor of the Department of Health, Nilda Ortiz Burgos, representing the agency, proposed that the project be amended so that investigations and evaluations of care facilities for older adults are carried out entirely by the Department of the Family.
“This amendment would prevent bureaucracy and procrastination of procedures that must be given in a reasonable period of time. Moreover, these functions are consistent with the ministerial duties of that agency. Placing on other agencies the responsibility of initiating, concluding or evaluating research exposes older adults to continue living the vicissitudes that generated the research, “said the Department of Health in its presentation.
He also added that the department has the Healthy Aging Program to develop strategies for the prevention and management of conditions that mostly affect the health of this population sector.
On the other hand, both the Association of Owners of Long-Term Care Centers and Insignia Senior Living opposed the measure, as drafted, on the grounds that it impermissibly limits the structure of the service model, and establishes provisions that undermine the right to develop business activity from the corporate conception of the service.
The president-elect of the association, Minerva Gómez Ramos, recommended that a working group be established so that a consensus project emerges that allows renewing, tempering and updating the licensing legislation of the business activity of the owners of elderly centers. She also emphasized that she agrees with Sen. Trujillo Plumey that Law 94 be repealed, because “it cannot withstand another amendment.”
“I recognize the service you offer, but my north is the elderly population. The reason for this bill is to improve the quality of service for the elderly,” emphasized the senator for the district of Humacao.
As part of the discussion, Sen. Juan Oscar Morales recommended that the association submit in writing the amendments they wish to make to the bill so that the legislation is adequate for the operation of care centers for the elderly.
Although the committee summoned the Office of Administration of the Courts, they excused themselves and commented that “the Judicial Branch has as a general rule to refrain from making judgments on matters of governmental public policy within the competence of the other branches of government.”