Advocates call on NYS to enforce nursing home staffing laws

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Elder care advocates are calling on New York State for better oversight of nursing home conditions. According to data from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, nearly 15 nursing homes in Monroe County are ranked “below average” right now.

It was a packed turnout Thursday afternoon, for a town hall meeting hosted by Elder Justice Committee of Metro Justice. The goal is to be a voice for families who are seeing first-hand the effects of severe staffing shortages in care

MaryDel Wypych is chair of the group.

She said a lot of people have reached out to her, upset about staffing levels at nursing homes. Families notice their loved ones aren’t getting appropriate attention of care, especially on weekends and holidays.

The town hall comes after the state passed some new staffing requirements into law. Nursing homes have to provide 3.5 hours of nursing and aide care per resident, a day. But, that particular law is actually on pause, because staffing is so low.

“It is actually built into the law that it won’t apply in regions with staffing issues, but as the whole state, the DOH has put enforcement on hold,” said Assemblymember Jen Lunsford.

Homes also must use a minimum of 70% of revenue on resident care, and 40% percent of that on resident-facing staff.

Wypych said it’s great the laws were passed, but they have no teeth unless enforced.

Advocates are calling for proof of effective oversight from the state, and transparency about staffing levels within the Department of Health.

Wypych said the DOH had nearly 50% vacancy level in 2022.

“There are still long wait times, for dealing with the complaints,” she said. “So when they put a complaint into the Department of Health, they don’t hear anything for months, sometimes over a year.”

“Without the right number of staff, people have long wait times for care, they can wait all day to get out of bed, use the bathroom, or be changed; without good staffing they might not get enough food and water.”

A lot of the families in attendance Thursday came on behalf of their loved ones who passed away a year or two ago. Some couldn’t speak, out of fear for retaliation, or ongoing lawsuits.

News10NBC reached out to the state for more information on enforcing these laws, and will provide an update as soon as we get it.