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Associated Press, Published October 04 2010

Federal law change a headache for ND nursing homes

BISMARCK (AP) — A change in federal child labor laws that prohibits some teenagers from operating mechanical lifts is causing headaches for some North Dakota nursing homes that use lifts to move patients.

The Department of Labor provision that went into effect this past summer prohibits 16- and 17-year-olds from operating the lifts because of safety concerns.

The change affects more than 205 certified nursing assistants statewide and has meant some nursing homes are having to juggle their schedules. For teen workers it can mean a loss of pay and experience.

At St. Gerard Nursing Home in Hankinson, nearly 15 percent of the CNA staff is under 18.

"It's a good share of the evening shift," Jill Foertsch, the facility's director of nursing, told The Bismarck Tribune.

North Dakota Long Term Care Association Director Shelly Peterson said the regulation was prompted by equipment primarily used in industrial settings, where teens had been killed. She said science and research show that the lifts prevent injuries in health care settings.

Peterson said the Labor Department is re-evaluating the regulation, and officials hope it can be changed quickly to lessen the effects on long-term care facilities.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.