After Success in New York Hospitals, Nurses Push for Safe Staffing in Nursing Homes

After addressing the shortage of nursing staff in hospitals, healthcare advocates have set their sights on implementing “Safe Staffing” policies in New York’s nursing homes. Safe Staffing policies would legislate minimum levels of nursing staff across the state’s nursing homes. Currently, New York State law only requires “sufficient staffing” which grants nursing homes wide discretion to determine whether its facility has sufficient levels of staffing. Elder care advocates lobbied state legislators to include safe staffing requirements in the budget this year. Lawmakers in Albany declined their request.

Instead, lawmakers opted to study the staffing levels at nursing homes. According to The Buffalo News, the budget passed earlier this year in Albany included a directive to the New York State Health Department to begin a study on May 1 analyzing “the range of potential fiscal impacts of staffing levels, other staffing enhancement strategies, and other potential quality improvement initiatives,” according to WHEC. The health department will then issue a final report to lawmakers at the end of the year. Given the timing of the report, it appears unlikely that any legislation will pass this year establishing mandatory staffing levels at nursing homes. Studies in Albany can frequently go in two directions. In some situations, studies are meant to endlessly shelve an unpopular idea. In other circumstances, studies can empower government agencies to develop their own policy proposals that will then be quickly passed into law.

Unsurprisingly, the nursing home industry remains staunchly opposed to any law mandating how many nurses it should employ and staff at its facilities. Opponents of the legislation say a “one-size-fits-all” approach would be ineffective and costly. Sponsors of the legislation and elder care advocates disagree, pointing to studies which show that nursing levels are one of the most important predictors of a nursing home’s quality. News10NBC said during its investigation on Sodus Rehabilitation Center, every family member of a resident said the nursing home had insufficient staff levels.

“We hear so many stories of people pushing the call bell and nobody comes to them,” Barbara Baer, Co-Chair of the Elder Justice Committee of Metro Justice told the news channel. The health department says it will engage will all stakeholders during the course of its study on staffing levels from nursing home associations to patient and community advocates.

Under-staffing is directly related to poor care provided in nursing homes.  It is is often due to ownership’s greed and not the caregiver’s apathy.  Contact our nursing home attorneys to discuss your potential case.

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