Two bills that will require safer staffing levels at both hospitals and nursing homes are set to finish passing the legislature next week.
Under the nursing home legislation, staff will be required to spend at least three-and-a-half hours with each resident per day.
But this bill, coupled with the mandate in the state budget requiring nursing homes reinvest a majority of its revenue back to direct care, could place a tough financial strain on nursing homes according to industry leaders.
Jim Clyne, President and CEO of LeadingAge NY, which represents not-for-profit nursing homes here in the state, said over the last eight years, 50 nursing homes have closed and this new bill could force even more of these facilities out of business.
“It feels like nursing homes are being scapegoated for the problems of the state and federal government and their inability to prepare for the pandemic,” Clyne said.
On top of that, this bill will penalize nursing homes if they do not meet this staffing requirement every single day.
Clyne said with growing staffing shortages, nursing homes need additional funding from the state to fulfill these new mandates.
Although there is over $60 million tucked into the state budget for both this new bill and the mandate in the budget, many nursing homes worry this won’t cut it.
“The workforce, it’s never been worse,” Clyne said. “To try and recruit and retain people into nursing homes, there is a serious lack of both nurses and certified nursing assistants. There just aren't the people to hire. I just had a call with my membership and they said they've never seen it this bad.”
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said before penalties are issued the Health Department will take into account staffing shortages and other obstacles these facilities might face.
He also did not rule out additional funding in the future.
“Considering where the Assembly and the Senate, both the majority and the minority are, how important we know this is to get right, I am sure that we in conversations with the governor, whomever that person might be, they will be hopefully be very good conversations,” Sen. Rivera said. “And we feel that we're going to be able to get the money that's necessary to make sure that they can meet this requirement.”
Milly Silva, executive vice president at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a union that represents nursing home workers throughout the state, said many of these facilities have already been operating under these staffing levels so these new requirements will only level the playing field.
“So the reality is, those employers, those operators who have been providing good care will actually see that everyone else is going to have to do the same,” Silva said. “And those who haven't been are going to now realize that they can no longer get away with it because we have family members, we have community members, as well as caregivers who are going to hold them accountable.”
These bills are expected to finish passing both houses of the legislature next week during Nurses Week.