NY will begin enforcing law on nursing home staffing minimums. What to know
Gov. Kathy Hochul will begin enforcing a 2021 state law that established minimum staffing levels for New York nursing homes, even as some facilities warn it could harm residents due to pandemic-related staffing shortages.
Previously, Hochul had similarly cited pandemic-related staffing shortages as she issued executive orders that delayed enforcement of the law, which was initially to take effect on Jan. 1.
But on Thursday, Hochul issued an executive order that called for beginning enforcement of the law.
It came after Attorney General Letitia James and members of the 1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers East union last week called on the Democratic governor to implement the law, which was approved under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The law requires every facility to maintain daily staffing hours equal to 3.5 hours of care per resident per day by a certified nurse aide, licensed practical nurse or registered nurse.
Hochul's order also calls for enforcing the law's clause that required nursing homes to spend at least 70% of revenue on direct resident care, and at least 40% of revenue on resident-facing staffing.
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The Department of Health didn't immediately respond Friday to questions about the agency's plans for enforcing the staffing minimum law.
Nursing home trade groups have urged Hochul to delay enforcement of the staffing law, asserting it would only worsen a staffing crisis at many nursing homes amid the pandemic.
Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the Health Facilities Association, representing hundreds of nursing homes in New York, on Wednesday said his group provided Hochul and other state agencies with an independent analysis of the staffing minimum law conducted by Clifton Larson Allen.
Hanse said in a statement that the analysis set forth the "physical inability" of many nursing homes to comply with the staffing minimums, as well as the financial impact on the industry.
Among the analysis findings:
- 383 of 611 (63%) New York facilities were below 3.5 hours per resident day staffing requirements.
- More than $324 million total annual cost estimated for New York facilities to meet the new staffing requirements.
- Additional annual costs per facility that is below the staffing requirements ranges from $250,000 to $1.6 million.
- 5,610 total additional staff estimated for New York facilities to meet the new staffing requirements.
Hochul's executive order on Thursday, however, renewed a declaration of a disaster emergency related to staffing shortages in health care through April 30. The measure suspends various restrictions related to staffing at hospitals and nursing homes, such as modifying certification regulations to allow medical workers to perform additional jobs.
The state Department of Health did not provide answers Friday to questions about the specific penalties nursing homes could face if facilities violate the law. The agency issued a statement about its plan for enforcement.
"At this time, nursing homes should appropriately document their efforts to comply with the law," Health Department spokesperson Erin Silk said in the statement.
"Mitigating factors can be considered by the (Health Department) when assessing penalties for non-compliance at a later date," she added.
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