Assembly Passes Legislation Requiring Safe Staffing Standards at Healthcare Facilities
Assemblymember Rivera says legislation will improve patient care and provide greater support to healthcare workers
Albany – New York State Assemblymember Jon Rivera announced that the Assembly passed two bills yesterday, May 4, 2021, that will set and enforce safe staffing ratios in nursing homes and hospitals across the state.
Under bill A.108-B, New York will now require hospitals to form a clinical staffing committee consisting of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, ancillary staff, and administration. The committee will develop and oversee clinical staffing plans that will set nurse-to-patient ratios in the hospital. The other legislation, bill A.7119, requires the Department of Health (DOH) to establish minimum staffing standards for nursing homes and penalties for those not in compliance. The standard must include a minimum of 3.5 hours of nursing care per resident per day.
The Assembly passed a state budget that allocates $64 million to support safe staffing in nursing homes. In March, the Assembly Majority also approved a transformative package of nursing home reform bills focused on quality improvement, safety standards, visitation, oversight and transparency, and turning back immunity from liability.
Assemblymember Rivera said, “Safe staffing legislation is long overdue in New York, and this was just another instance where the Covid-19 pandemic worsened the problem. Despite already facing staffing shortages, nurses showed up to work everyday to care for the sickest of the sick while putting their own lives on the line. Our healthcare workers and their patients deserve better. This legislation is a big step in ensuring safe nurse to patient ratios. The National Nurses Week observance starts soon. I can’t think of a better way to thank our nurses than by providing them with the guarantee that proper staffing levels are on the way.”
Iris Purks, CNA, Safire Care of the Northtowns and 1199SEIU member said, “Staffing in our nursing homes has been an issue for a very long time. Not having enough people to provide care that is needed leaves everyone feeling burned out, exhausted, and helpless. It hurts quality care for our residents too. The legislation passed yesterday setting minimum care hours per day means that the residents we love won’t have to be sad wondering when we will be back to visit them anymore. Finally, we will have enough staff to care for them properly. We won’t feel rushed and can give them the attention and care they need to feel comfortable in their homes. This is the kind of work that we, as nursing home caregivers, have been called to do.”
Debora M. Hayes, Area Director, Communications Workers of America District 1 said, “Prioritizing healthcare workers and patients means a massive investment in our healthcare system, in our hospitals, and in our healthcare workers.It means more staffing - plain and simple. It means real oversight and accountability of healthcare facilities and meaningful enforcement by the state to ensure patient quality of care and workplace safety for our members. Today we are able to celebrate a momentous step forward. The legislation before us will make enormous strides in protecting patients and improving workplace conditions for our members.”
- The legislation requires hospitals to establish clinical staffing committees that would be responsible for developing and overseeing a clinical staffing plan
- The clinical staffing plans would set nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals as well as set guidelines for the number of ancillary staff in each unit
- These committees would be made up of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, ancillary staff members providing direct patient care and hospital administrators
- Plans would be submitted to the state Department of Health (DOH) by July 1 of each year, and these committees would be responsible for adjusting and improving these plans as need be
- The DOH would be required to set regulations for intensive and critical care unit staffing, including at least 12 hours of registered nurse care per day
- Plans must be made accessible to the public and posted on the DOH hospital profile website
- The DOH is tasked with investigating any violations or complaints, and hospitals that violate these guidelines may face civil penalties; however, the DOH will take into account any unforeseeable emergency circumstances when determining these matters
- An independent advisory commission will also be created to help further improve working conditions and quality of care in hospitals
- The legislation directs the DOH commissioner to establish minimum nurse staffing levels for nursing homes in order to promote the highest standards of resident health and well-being
- The DOH would also be tasked with creating penalties for noncompliance and reviewing compliance through quarterly federal staffing documentation; however, the DOH will take into account factors, such as unforeseeable disasters or emergencies, the nature of the violation and labor-supply shortages, when issuing penalties
- The minimum nursing home staffing standard must include a minimum of 3.5 hours of nursing care per resident per day
- Of that 3.5 hours, at least 2.2 would need to be provided by nursing assistants and at least 1.1 would need to be provided by licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs)