ALBANY — The state health department informed New York City nursing homes that the law requiring minimum staffing levels went into effect Friday.
The mandate, passed last year by the state legislature and signed by the then government. Andrew Cuomo, in a bid to address nursing home understaffing, was originally due to come into effect on January 1, but was delayed due to staffing issues that worsened during the surge in ‘omicron.
Trade associations representing nursing homes across the state had called for the requirement to be postponed again, arguing that many of its members will not be able to meet the ratios. Unions and New York Attorney General Letitia James, however, said it was time to start enforcing the requirements.
“More than 80% of New York State’s nursing homes cannot meet these requirements,” LeadingAge New York President and CEO James W. Clyne Jr. said in a statement. Thursday evening. “By enacting an unenforceable law, the Governor and Legislature made a false promise to our nursing home residents. This mandate will only drain care homes of the very resources they need to recruit and retain more staff, forcing them to pay heavy penalties due to conditions beyond their control.
The requirements call for the state’s more than 600 nursing homes to provide 3.5 hours of nursing care per resident per day. Of these 3.5 hours, no less than 2.2 hours of care must be provided by a licensed practical nurse or licensed practical nurse and at least 1.1 hours of care must be provided by a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse.
To meet those staffing needs, LeadingAge, a nursing home trade association, said more than 12,000 new nurses and aides are needed statewide.
Another state law also passed last year requires nursing homes to spend at least 70% of their revenue on direct resident care and 40% on “resident-facing staff.”
Health Department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said that when Governor Kathy Hochul issued executive orders that delayed enforcement of staffing requirements until March 31, it was “understanding that the delay would be temporary “.
In her statement, Clyne called the state’s “abysmal Medicaid rates for nursing homes,” which hampers a nursing home’s ability to afford the salaries needed to compete for a limited pool of applicants. use.
LeadingAge points out that New York’s Medicaid program covers nearly 75% of nursing home care days. The problem, they say, is that fares have been stagnant for a long time, while costs have risen rapidly.
This is one of the main reasons nursing homes are hoping that the final state budget, currently being negotiated, will include a significant increase in Medicaid rates. As things stood, one house budgets agreed with Hochul’s proposal to plan for a 1% increase in Medicaid rates.
“We are puzzled that the governor recognizes the healthcare workforce crisis throughout the healthcare system, except in nursing homes,” Clyne said.
The main union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, planned to hold a virtual press conference on Friday afternoon to discuss the news and detail next steps to ensure the nursing home industry complies with the law.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed decades-old staffing and quality issues at many nursing homes across the state,” the union said in a media advisory.