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New York State studying "safe-staffing" at nursing homes, hospitals

Jennifer Lewke
Created: October 17, 2019 06:14 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Should nursing homes and hospitals be required to have a set number of nurses to cover the care of patients? That’s what New York State is trying to determine right now.

While most patients and their families say yes, the associations that represent nursing homes and hospitals are pushing back hard against mandatory minimum staffing requirements.

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Safe-staffing requirements have been talked about for years. The current version of legislation that addresses it would require nursing homes and hospitals in New York have a set ratio of at least one nurse for every five patients. While the bill has failed to make it out of committee in previous years, Governor Andrew Cuomo this year directed the NYS Department of Health to study the viability of the proposal and see whether it would offer increased safety to patients.

Over the last few years, News10NBC has told dozens of stories about the care and conditions inside some of our local nursing homes. Something we’ve heard consistently from patients and their families is complaints about a lack of proper staffing to provide the kind of care that’s needed.

During a forum in Rochester on Thursday, residents, family members, and nurses all spoke in favor of the safe-staffing regulations.

“We are here today to be a voice for those in nursing homes and hospitals who suffer, and yes die, in silence because of low staffing levels,” said Mary Ann Spring, a registered nurse and member of the Elder Justice Committee.

Marj Donhauser’s mother has been a patient at a local nursing home for the past five years.

“I cry all the way back (home) because I don't want to leave my mother in that situation because there's no one to look after her,” she told News10NBC.

The turnover and burnout rate in nursing homes is high. Then there’s the pay. Certified Nursing Assistants and LPN’s are, in some cases, making close to minimum wage.

“You can go to McDonald's, give somebody a hamburger and say, have a nice day, and get $15 for doing that,” said Donhauser.

The NYS Department of Health is holding stakeholder meetings across New York State to hear opinions on the matter. The agencies that represent nursing homes so far have been lobbying hard against safe-staffing.

“It would cost over $1 billion to fund the level of RN's, LPN's and CNAs that would be needed at the same time, that 40% of the nursing homes already have a negative operating margin," said Jim Kline of Leading Age New York at a recent meeting. "So, it can't, at least for my members, it can't be funded out of profits because there are no profits."

NYSDOH is hoping to provide the results of its study on safe-staffing to the Governor by the end of the year.

Click here to look-up a nursing home’s inspection records and safety ratings.


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