Legislation proposed to better staff NY nursing homes

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The push to make changes to health policy in New York continues, following the state Attorney General’s report on COVID-19 and nursing homes. While the report found an “undercount” of nursing home resident deaths, it also highlighted several other issues such as understaffing.

“We have seen this year what happened in long-term care facilities and also acute care facilities. We see that there’s a burnout rate from nurses. They’re leaving the field,” said Assemblymember Aileen Gunther during an Assembly Health Committee meeting Tuesday morning.

Gunther is the Assembly sponsor of the proposed Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. The proposal has bipartisan support in the state legislature, and the support of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). The concept is to have enough staff at healthcare facilities to properly take care of patients.

“This going back from sending patients with COVID from nursing homes to hospitals, then hospitals got overwhelmed, they were told to send them back to the nursing homes, and even in the transfer process, patients died because neither place was capable of caring adequately for these patients,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, NYSNA President, RN. 

NYSNA said the legislation would set nurse to patient ratios by unit at hospitals. And at nursing homes it would set minimum care hours per resident per day.

“It’s critical to have enough hours of care for these patients to not only provide for what they ask for but to predict what they might need because they can’t always advocate for themselves,” Sheridan-Gonzalez said.

While some argue that if the legislation is approved, facilities would need to hire thousands more healthcare workers, while there is already a shortage, driving up wages, Sheridan-Gonzalez says it would incentivize nurses and draw more to the field.

“I’m sure that they would come back if they knew that they were going to practice under safe conditions and be able to provide the hands-on care that they went into the profession to provide,” she said. 

The bill passed through the Assembly Health Committee Thursday morning and now heads to the Codes Committee.

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