On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, two bills that would establish mandatory staffing levels for nursing homes and hospitals cleared the New York Legislature. Advocates of the legislation argue that preexisting staffing shortages exacerbated the problems faced by caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill received bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature, passing with a tally of 125-25 in the Assembly and 52-9 in the Senate.
Mandatory staffing requirements in nursing homes have been debated for years in Albany. A Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act has been pending for over a decade without being enacted. However, the proposal for staffing requirements has gained momentum since the COVID-19 pandemic and reports regarding the reported deaths of more than 13,000 nursing home residents due to COVID-19.
A separate bill pertaining to staffing at hospitals mandates the creation of committees to determine staffing guidelines and appropriate staffing ratios for that particular hospital.
The bill pertaining to nursing homes is more strict because it requires nursing homes to have 3.5 hours of nursing care for each resident per day, with at least 2.2 of those hours provided by certified nurse aides and at least 1.1 hour by licensed practical nurses or registered nurses. In addition, nursing homes will be required to disclose their staffing information so it is accessible to residents, families, and staff.
Currently, nursing homes in New York State provide an average of about 3.4 hours of care for each resident, which ranks New York No. 32 in the nation, according to the Long-Term Care Community Coalition, an advocacy group for nursing home residents. A landmark federal study done in 2001 determined that residents should get at least 4.1 hours of care per day. However, since there is currently no minimum staffing requirement in New York, critics claim that some New York nursing homes fall below the average of 3.4 hours of care per day for each resident. The bill originally called for 4.1 hours of care per day for each resident, but sponsors of the legislation said it was lowered to 3.5 hours during negotiations with nursing homes.
We will continue to report on this issue as further developments may lead to increased litigation against nursing homes and health care facilities pertaining to claims of inadequate staffing.