NY Nursing Home Workers Call for Stricter Enforcement of Staffing Law

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A new law that was passed in New York will require all nursing homes to provide residents with 3.5 hours of personal nursing care per day, but many nursing homes are not meeting these requirements and due to a staffing shortage the law has been placed on hold until the end of this month.

A new law in New York requires nursing homes to provide residents with 3.5 hours of direct nursing care per resident day. Though this law recently went into effect, a recent NPR report found, the state’s nursing homes are still falling short of the newly required threshold. “Of the 21 Western New York nursing homes to average more than 3.5 care hours” during the most recent 90-day quarter covered by federal data, the report states, “almost all had at least one day where they were below that benchmark.” More than 50% of those nursing homes fell below the benchmark for at least two weeks.

One such nursing home is Harris Hill Nursing Facility in Williamsville, New York, which reportedly provided fewer than 3.5 hours of direct nursing care per resident day on “more than 30 days” during the period covered. The law, to be clear, was passed last year and set to go into effect on January 1st of this year, but Governor Kathy Hochul put a pause on it the day before, due to “a shortage of workers” in the state during the omicron surge. Her executive order pausing the law “is set to expire at the end of the month,” NPR notes, “but may be extended.”

Experts and nursing home employee advocates argued to NPR that New York is inadequately prepared to enforce the law once it takes effect. As NPR notes, the nursing homes that averaged more than 3.5 HRPD but had at least one day where they didn’t “would be considered in compliance with the safe staffing law and would not face any punishment” under the state’s proposed enforcement strategy. A policy analyst for a nursing home workers union told NPR, “These residents need that level of care every day… The one thing we know is that nursing home residents’ condition doesn’t change over the weekend. They need as much care on a Friday as they do on a Saturday or Sunday.”

The problem, advocates argue, is that if the state assesses nursing homes by quarterly average, they will let slide nursing homes that provide less than required care “on many days throughout the quarter… especially on weekends and holidays that are notoriously difficult to staff.” In a statement to NPR, the Department of Health said that “compliance shall be determined quarterly” and argued that the language of the law provides for such determinations. The law’s sponsor, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, countered that this was not his intention for the law, however. “If there’s inconsistent care from one day to another, it undermines the intent of the bill,” he told NPR, adding that he “plans to work with the health department over the next few weeks to remedy the enforcement plan.”

More information about critiques of the nursing home safe staffing law is available via NPR. 

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.

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