ALBANY, NY — “These past two years have been heck on all of us,” said Julie Martinez, an LPN at Dunkirk Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Dunkirk. “Your aides are crying …
ALBANY, NY — “These past two years have been heck on all of us,” said Julie Martinez, an LPN at Dunkirk Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Dunkirk. “Your aides are crying and breaking down, your nurses are crying and breaking down… they know that residents are not getting the quality care that they deserve.”
Martinez, a member of the 1199 SEIU healthcare workers union, was speaking at a press conference last week about New York’s new safe-staffing law, which sets minimum amounts of staff time per nursing home resident and comes with teeth. But the existing severe shortage of nursing home staff could limit its effect.
The landmark legislation was sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-100), who is also a registered nurse.
Implementation was paused on January 1, and finally took effect on April 1. Union members and senior advocates welcomed the measure.
The state has more than 600 nursing homes, and those homes are now required to provide 3.5 hours of care by a certified nursing aide or nurse’s aide per resident per day, and at least 1.1 hours of care per day provided by an RN or LPN. Administrative work does not count toward the total.
Homes that do not provide enough patient care hours can be fined up to $2,000 per day.
In addition, 70 percent of all revenue is supposed to go toward patient care, and 40 percent of that toward staffing, said Helen Schaub, vice president and policy and legislative director for 1199. Homes with surplus revenue can only keep five percent of it, according to LeadingAge New York; the nursing homes “would be required to remit the overage and/or the difference between the minimum spending requirement and the actual amount of spending to the state.”
Richard Mollot, head of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, hailed the law. “New York was one of 10 or so states without minimum standards of care,” he said. “We need to stop coddling and paying for these low-performing nursing homes.” He cited the 50 to 100 percent turnover rates in nursing homes and called it “an indictment of the industry.”
But staffing shortages pose a significant problem.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 31 percent of the state’s nursing homes reported being short-staffed in late February.
“We are puzzled that the governor recognizes the health care staffing crisis throughout the health care system, except in nursing homes,” said LeadingAge New York president and CEO James Clyne in a statement. He added, “More than 80 percent of nursing homes in NYS cannot meet these requirements.”
LeadingAge represents nonprofit continuing-care providers, including nursing homes.
“By enacting a law that is impossible to comply with, the governor and the legislature have made a false promise to our nursing home residents,” he said, arguing that the penalties for noncompliance will drain nursing homes of the funds needed to recruit more staff.
Representatives from the Sunset Lake LDC, which owns the Care Center at Sunset Lake, did not return a request for comment by presstime.
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