Safe staffing law for nursing homes won’t be enforced yet

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New rules meant to ensure there are enough employees to care for your loved ones in nursing homes won’t be enforced as planned, at least not yet.

Most nursing homes were short-staffed before the pandemic and now the situation is even worse. A new law was set to go into effect that required facilities to meet specific staffing levels but Gov. Kathy Hochul issued an executive order that has essentially put a stay on the implementation.

If you’ve had a loved one in a nursing home, chances are there were times when you wondered if there were enough people around to provide the type of care you expect.

“One nurse aide for 20 to 30 residents that’s just not safe, not humane, it’s just beyond belief,” said Mary Del Wypych.

Wypych’s mother lived in a local nursing home before she passed away and since then, Wypych has become an advocate with the Elder Justice Committee of Metro Justice.

“When people are not cared for adequately and they get a bedsore and it becomes infected and they need to go to the hospital or they become dehydrated and they need to go to the hospital, that costs us all more money,” she said.

The safe staffing law requires nursing homes to provide residents with at least 3½ hours of direct nursing care daily but under an executive order, Governor Hochul essentially put it on pause.

Her office told News10NBC, “while nursing homes are encouraged to comply, in light of the current staffing crisis, the EO suspension makes it clear that noncompliance will not be a violation of the public health law, so as to prevent penalizing facilities that cannot comply due to the emergency.”

1199SEIU Policy Analyst Dennis Short says he understands the state is in a tough spot right now.

“We’re right in the middle of another huge COVID surge and so the Governor, I think, felt like we need to just pause to just make sure we’ve got things sort of under control in the nursing homes so I understand where she’s coming from,” he told News10NBC.

But that doesn’t mean he likes it.

Short said the number one complaint the union gets from the nursing home employees it represents is how overwhelmed they feel,

“When we do surveys that outweighs wages and benefits,” he said.

Recruitment, according to Short, isn’t even a major issue, retention is, “the staffing is so short they’ll come onto the job they’ll go through orientation and they’ll get thrown on the floor and are faced with the workload and will simply leave.”

Another part of the new law relates to nursing home profits. It stipulates that 70% of revenue has to be spent on direct resident care and at least 40% has to be spent on staffing. Hundreds of nursing homes and trade organizations are suing the State of New York about that part of the law. Enforcement of that provision is also paused under the executive order. Both will be reconsidered in 30 days.