The Governor of New York recently removed a three-month prohibition on a new regulation requiring nursing homes to satisfy minimum staffing requirements to provide patient care. Supporters of the regulation, which establishes minimum staffing ratios and requires that nursing home residents receive at least 3.5 hours a day of direct nursing care, have expressed satisfaction that the delay has ended.
Staffing Levels Are at a Difficult Low
One member of the 1199 SEIU union as well as a nurse at a Dunkirk nursing home has commented that over the last couple of years, times have occurred when she has been the only registered nurse on staff for several dozen residents. This nurse has commented that it is “heartbreaking” to even satisfy the basic need requirements of residents, which include things like personal hygiene.
The Hardships of the Pandemic on Nursing Homes
Besides the problem created by low-level staff, residents at nursing homes throughout New York and the rest of the country have had to go months at a time without receiving visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only do guests informally assist, but sometimes all residents want is to have a conversation. Hopefully, minimum staffing levels will make this a possibility.
The executive vice president of 1119 has commented that New York’s nursing homes have suffered from inadequate staffing even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Many health professionals have emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized why it was so necessary to enact the regulations that have since been put into place.
The regulation received approval in 2021 and has been described as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic when 15,000 individuals passed away from the disease.
Improperly Counted Covid-19 Fatalities in Nursing Homes
The Attorney General’s 2021 report addressing nursing homes discovered that New York’s former Governor Cuomo as well as his aides substantially undercounted the number of nursing home fatalities during the worst part of the Covid-19 pandemic. The report also examined various weaknesses in the system, including inadequate staff numbers at most nursing home facilities.
New York law also requires that 70% of each facility’s revenue be utilized on patient care while 40% of revenue be utilized to compensate workers.
Response by Nursing Homes to Staffing Requirements
The management at nursing homes responded forcefully. They claimed that they could not afford to recruit approximately 12,000 new employees. Management also blamed New York legislatures for failing to consider the cost of living adjustments in Medicaid’s reimbursement rates over the last 14 years.
Three-quarters of patients pay for care through the government’s health care system.
Other workers with 1199 have commented that enforcement mechanisms also exist in New York. For example, the state health department follows up on nursing homes to inspect whether they continue to meet staffing requirements. This examination is performed by analyzing payroll data that nursing homes must submit to the federal government.