It took years of advocacy and an outrageous pandemic for state lawmakers to pass minimum staffing requirements for New York nursing homes last May. But just as those rules were set to go into effect on Jan. 1, Governor Kathy Hochul decided to give long-term care facilities some leeway.
The governor issued an executive order Dec. 31 postponing enforcement of the rules for 30 days, citing a state of emergency she had declared due to a shortage of healthcare personnel. At the time, the movement seemed to be related to the omicron variant. COVID-19 cases have increased in recent weeks, exacerbating staffing issues in hospitals and nursing homes.
But Hochul has since extended his executive order several times, most recently delaying enforcement until the end of March.
Under the legislation, care homes are supposed to hire enough staff to provide patients with an average of three and a half hours of clinical care a day. Patient advocates and unions say they wonder when nursing homes will actually have to recruit staff and comply. Studies have linked higher staffing levels in nursing homes to better quality care and even lower death rates.
“There is no reason to further postpone the long overdue reforms that require care home operators to ensure adequate standards of care,” said Milly Silva, executive vice president of 1199 SEIU, one of the unions that fought for staffing legislation. declaration. “Residents, their families, caregivers and taxpayers who fund this industry deserve better.
Hochul’s office did not respond to a question from Gothamist this week about how long the governor intends to delay the application. The state health department said that while noncompliance will not be considered a violation of law, “retirement homes are strongly encouraged to begin complying with these new requirements.”
From January care homes were also supposed to ensure that at least 40 per cent of revenue went to staff who provide direct patient care. Hochul also delayed enforcing this rule.
It was part of a package of reforms that former Governor Andrew Cuomo put in the budget last year. It also capped care home profits at 5% and placed other restrictions on how facilities could allocate their money. Nursing homes that failed to comply or made too much profit were supposed to send money back to the state to be placed in a fund called the “Nursing Home Quality Pool”, which is redistributed to the nursing homes. depending on their performance.
Nursing homes sued the state health commissioner in federal court in December, calling the benefit cap unconstitutional.