Attorney General calls for stronger protections for nursing home workers

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York State Attorney General Letitia James Monday evening called for stronger protections for nursing home workers.

James pointed to a report her office released in January 2021, which revealed that nursing homes were ill-equipped and ill-prepared to deal with crises and renewed calls to require appropriate staff-to-resident ratios and for nursing homes to improve employee wages and invest in their facilities.

The New York State Health Facilities Association responded saying staffing mandates are unattainable between the healthcare staffing crisis, the state’s funding cuts and low Medicaid nursing home reimbursement rates:

“New York is in the midst of a long-term care workforce crisis that threatens access to essential skilled nursing and assisted living care throughout our State. For the past 14 years, New York has cut over $1 billion in necessary funding to nursing homes severely impacting the ability of providers to compete in today’s labor market for essential care workers. These cuts and the State’s incredibly low Medicaid nursing home reimbursement rates1 directly limit the ability of providers to retain current staff and compete for new workers.”

“It’s been said that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging! 1199 SEIU’s efforts to advance the unrealistic 70/40 and 3.5 staffing mandates during a workforce crisis is like advancing a law to make the sun rise in the West. It’s simply not possible!”

“Recognizing that New York is facing a once in a generation healthcare staffing crisis, Governor Hochul has issued an Executive Order staying these 70/40 and 3.5 staffing mandate laws recognizing that there are not enough workers and not enough revenue to implement these initiatives which her administration inherited from the prior administration.”

“Special interest press conferences in support of unattainable staffing mandates do nothing to solve New York’s long-term care workforce crisis. Only collaboration between government, providers and labor working together to advance tangible actions such as increasing the State’s nation leading low Medicaid rate. and implementing initiatives to recruit and retain workers will solve New York’s long-term care workforce crisis.”

An audit recently released by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli revealed a persistent lack of funding for public health over the last decade.

State auditors also found that the New York State Department of Health (DOH) didn’t provide the public with accurate death counts, and the actual number of nursing home residents who died is still uncertain.

Attorney General Letitia James issued the following statement in response to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s audit of the DOH’s response to COVID:

“This audit affirms many of the findings that we uncovered last year about the state’s response to COVID, most notably that DOH and the former governor undercounted the number of deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent. I am grateful to Comptroller DiNapoli for bringing much needed transparency to this critical issue. My office will continue to monitor nursing home conditions and ensure the safety of our most vulnerable residents. If anyone has concerns about nursing home conditions, I urge them to contact my office.”

The Attorney General’s office released a scathing report showing that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration had drastically under-counted the number of COVID nursing home deaths.