UPDATE ON NOV. 14 The Pennsylvania Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators on Wednesday voted 7-3 to reduce to 36 from 48 the number of continuing education hours required every two years of licensed nursing home administrators. The Wolf administration had proposed to cut the requirement to 24 hours every two years.

A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, which includes a licensing branch, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, called the change progress on "the Wolf administration's effort to modernize and improve job licensing requirements." The original proposal did not have the support of the advocates for the elderly or the nursing home industry.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE POSTED NOV. 12 The Wolf administration has united advocates for the elderly and a Pennsylvania nursing home trade group in opposition to a proposal that would reduce by half the amount of continuing education required of nursing home administrators.

"This is awful," said Diane Menio, executive director of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly in Center City.

"We're not on board," said Russ McDaid, chief executive of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. "This is a complex industry right now."

So where did the proposal — scheduled for consideration Wednesday at a meeting of the State Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators — come from?

"The proposal is part of the governor's licensing reform initiative to remove employment barriers and strengthen the state's workforce," said a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State, which includes the licensing branch, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

That effort led in June to the elimination of 13 job licenses, including those for auctioneers, barbers, cemetery brokers, and orthotic fitters.

"We must cut red tape, reduce the bureaucracy, and ensure overly burdensome rules and fees do not block hardworking people," Wolf said, "from getting a good job, supporting their families, and growing our economy."

Requiring licensing for selected occupations has long been seen, from one perspective, as a form of consumer protection that ensures basic levels of competency but from another as an anticompetitive measure that restricts the supply of people in those jobs.

Pennsylvania's 48-hour continuing education requirement over two years for the state's 2,377 nursing home administrators is currently above average for the Northeast, according to information from the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards. Cutting it to 24 hours every two years would put the state in the bottom tier nationally.

For advocates and industry representatives, the proposal runs counter to claims by Wolf's Department of Health that it has made it a priority to improve the quality of care in nursing homes.

A Department of Health spokesman referred an inquiry about the change to the Department of State, which said the proposal would reduce "the requirement to the statutory minimum to reduce some of the regulatory burdens of licensure, while continuing to protect the public health and safety by assuring continued competence of nursing home administrator licensees."

McDaid, of the nursing home trade group, said his organization is not hearing from nursing home administrators that getting 48 hours of training every two years is too burdensome.

"Forty-eight hours is not a significant barrier for them is what we hear from nursing home administrators," he said.