AHCA Notice of Rule Changes

On August 15, 2023, the Agency for Health Care Administration (“AHCA”) published notice of a proposed rule amendment regarding Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Rule 59A-18.0081 which applies to regulation of licensed Nurse Registries in Florida. A copy of the AHCA Notice of Proposed Rule Amendment can be accessed here. Licensed Nurse Registries in Florida should review the proposed changes to determine how these changes to the Rule will affect their future operations, and if there are any concerns that should be addressed prior to the Rule becoming final. Nurse Registries affected by the Rule have certain rights, as described below, to participate in a public hearing or in a formal Rule Protest proceeding to seek changes or modifications to the proposed Rule amendments.

Overview of Rule Amendments

The current Rule 59A-18.0081, F.A.C. sets forth general requirements governing Nurse Registries including Rules that set forth requirements for certified nursing assistants (“CNAs”) and home health aides (“HHAs”) who provide health care services to patients in the home or place of residence and specifies the services that a CNA or HHA can perform. The main purpose of the proposed Rule amendments is to incorporate changes based upon changes recently made to Florida Statute 400.488, “Assistance with self-administration of medication and with other tasks.” This statute was updated in 2022 to add that CNAs and HHAs may assist with other tasks other than just self-administration of medication. This Rule amendment clarifies for CNAs and HHAs what can be performed, and it also clarifies some tasks that cannot be performed.

The proposed rule amendment reflects the additional tasks that CNAs and HHAs may now perform as taught and documented by a registered nurse (“RN”). Many of the proposed changes to the rule are reorganizing the language; however, it does specify both additional tasks that are now allowed, as well as specify some tasks that are not allowed. These proposed changes will assist in clarification for CNAs, HHAs, and the RNs that supervise them. The specific rule changes that include the additional tasks are as follows (underlined additions, strike through deletions):

(a) Assisting with the placement and removal change of a colostomy bag, excluding the removal of the flange or manipulation of the stoma’s site reinforcement of dressing;
(b) Assisting with the application and removal of anti- embolism stockings and hosiery prescribed for therapeutic treatment of the legs.
(b) through (d) renumbered (c) through (e) No Change.
(f) (e) Administer Doing simple urine tests for sugar, acetone or albumin;
(g) Assisting with the use of a glucometer to perform blood glucose testing;
(h) (f) Measuring and preparing special diets;
(i) (g) Measuring intake and output of fluids; and,
(j) (h) Measuring vital signs, including temperature, pulse, respiration or blood pressure;
(k) Assisting with oxygen nasal cannulas and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, excluding the titration of the prescribed oxygen levels; and
(l) Assisting with the reinforcement of dressing.

The proposed rule amendment regarding the tasks that cannot be performed by a CNA or Home Health Aide are as follows:

(a) Administer any nursing or therapeutic service that requires licensure as a health care professional;
(b) Change sterile dressings.
(c) Irrigate body cavities such as giving an enema;
(d) Perform irrigation of any wounds (such as vascular ulcers, diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, surgical wounds) or apply agents used in the debridement of necrotic tissues in wounds of any type;
(e) Perform a gastric irrigation or enteral feeding;
(f) Catheterize a patient;
(g) Administer medications;
(h) Apply heat by any method;
(i) Care for a tracheotomy tube;
(j) Provide any service which has not been included in the plan of care; or,
(k) Providing assistance with a pill organizer, such as removing medication from a pill organizer and placing the medication in the patient’s hand or filling a pill organizer with the patient’s medication(s).

Other proposed changes to the rule worth mentioning are that when it comes to assistance with self-administration of medications, previously it was required that a review of the medications for which assistance is to be provided was to be conducted by a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse (“LPN”). The proposed rule will change this and require that an assessment of the patient and patient’s medications for which assistance is to be provided must be conducted by an RN to ensure that a patient receiving such assistance is medically stable and has regularly scheduled medications that are intended to be self-administered. This assessment may not be conducted by an LPN.

Right to Participate in Public Hearing or Formal Rule Challenge Proceedings

Prior to the adoption, amendment, or repeal of any rule other than an emergency rule, an agency such as AHCA is required to give notice of its intended action as required by Section 120.54(3)(a), Florida Statutes. The notice must be published in the Florida Administrative Register not less than 28 days prior to the intended action. Any person who will be substantially affected by a rule or a proposed rule may request a Public Hearing on the Rule changes and may seek an administrative determination of the invalidity of the rule on the grounds that the rule is an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority pursuant to F.S. 120.56. There are strict time restraints for challenging a proposed rule that are delineated in F.S. 120.56(2) as follows:

A petition alleging the invalidity of a proposed rule shall be filed within 21 days after the date of publication of the notice required by s. 120.54(3)(a); within 10 days after the final public hearing is held on the proposed rule as provided by s. 120.54(3)(e)2.; within 20 days after the statement of estimated regulatory costs or revised statement of estimated regulatory costs, if applicable, has been prepared and made available as provided in s. 120.541(1)(d); or within 20 days after the date of publication of the notice required by s. 120.54(3)(d).

According to published Notice, a Rule Workshop on the proposed Nurse Registry rule changes is scheduled for September 14, 2023, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Drive, Building 3, Conference Room C, Tallahassee, FL 32308. Individuals may also participate by dialing the Open Voice conference line, 1(888)585-9008, then enter the conference room number followed by the pound sign, 998-518-088#. The agenda and related materials can be found on the web at:
https://ahca.myflorida.com/MCHQ/Health_Facility_Regulatio n/Rulemaking.shtml.
Any affected party may participate in the Workshop to offer comments, ask questions, or suggest modifications. Any Petition to Challenge Proposed Rule Amendments would need to be filed with the Division of Administrative Hearings within 10 days after the final public hearing is held.

Legal Standards in a Rule Challenge

In a formal hearing the Party filing a Rule Challenge has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they would be substantially affected by the proposed rule. The Agency then has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed rule is not an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority as to the objections raised. According to Section 120.52(8), Florida Statutes, a rule is deemed to be an “invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority” if any of the following apply:

(a) The agency has materially failed to follow the applicable rulemaking procedures or requirements set forth in this chapter;
(b) The agency has exceeded its grant of rulemaking authority, citation to which is required by s. 120.54(3)(a)1.;
(c) The rule enlarges, modifies, or contravenes the specific provisions of law implemented, citation to which is required by s. 120.54(3)(a)1.;
(d) The rule is vague, fails to establish adequate standards for agency decisions, or vests unbridled discretion in the agency;
(e) The rule is arbitrary or capricious. A rule is arbitrary if it is not supported by logic or the necessary facts; a rule is capricious if it is adopted without thought or reason or is irrational; or
(f) The rule imposes regulatory costs on the regulated person, county, or city which could be reduced by the adoption of less costly alternatives that substantially accomplish the statutory objectives.

A grant of rulemaking authority is necessary but not sufficient to allow an agency to adopt a rule; a specific law to be implemented is also required. An agency may adopt only rules that implement or interpret the specific powers and duties granted by the enabling statute.

An example of a recent finding where a rule was found to be an invalid exercise of legislative power was in Fla. Dep’t of Bus. & Pro. Regul., Div. of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco v. Walmart Inc., No. 1D19-4599, 2021 WL 1996361 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. May 19, 2021), reh’g denied (Aug. 19, 2021), wherein the Court held:

Plain meaning of “restaurant” as term was used in statute governing eligibility for consumption-on-premises liquor licenses, whether term’s meaning was “public eating place” or “public food service establishment” or “business establishment where meals or refreshments may be purchased,” supported that restaurants customarily sold food prepared offsite and that restaurants were not limited to selling food prepared onsite, and, thus, rule interpreting statute and defining items “customarily sold in a restaurant” to exclude food prepared offsite was invalid for enlarging, modifying, or contravening statute.

Affected Parties Should Review the Proposed Rule Changes

Nurse Registries affected by the proposed rule amendment should review the proposed amendments carefully. If you feel there is a need for clarification, or that a rule is not warranted or is in conflict with statute, you should exercise your legal rights to participate in the Workshop and any future Public Hearing to seek modification of the proposed rule amendments, or to challenge proposed Rule amendments that may be invalid.

If you have questions or concerns about this new rule, you can contact an experienced healthcare attorney at Smith & Associates for a free consultation.