ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Nursing home care workers and advocates discussed concerns over the Department of Health’s drafted standards. They say it would provide inadequate quality care to residents and exploit health care workers on Thursday.

The DOH draft requires nursing home owners provide an average of 3.5 hours of daily care to residents: 2.2 hours delivered by nurse aides and 1.1 hours delivered by registered nurses and licensed practical nurse. If those standards are not met, nursing homes would be fined. But are the minimum standards enough? 

“No. People need help every single day. People need minimum care, every single day. It can’t be one day you give them one hour and another day you give them four hours. It doesn’t work like that. We all ourselves have needs… we can meet them on our own. They can’t,” said Beth Finkel, NYS Director of AARP.

But Richard Mollot, Executive Director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition says, those standards can actually be exceeded if facilities hire and pay workers more money, it’s just a matter of including it in their business plan, “Nursing homes in this state are making hundreds of millions of dollars a year in excess income. Their inability to find and retain workers is entirely a problem of their own making. When will we stop feeding the beast?”

Advocates pointed to the Weinberg Campus in Buffalo where management has made the decision to give employees a wage increase, invest in their staff’s education to bring in more CNAs and HHAs, and pay for cab fares to bring health aides in on the weekends when there tends to be a shortage. “These are calculated business decisions by organizations, by companies that are extremely sophisticated about how they are hiring, their hiring patterns and knowing what they may or may not get penalized for,” said Mollot.

Stephen Hanse is President & CEO of NYS Health Facilities Association, he says the main problem is that for the past 14 years New York has underfunded Medicaid Care for seniors, “That needs to change. And as that medicare rate increases one hundred percent of that money has to be dedicated to staff.”