Nurses say passage of bills to set and enforce adequate nursing staff levels in New York hospitals and nursing homes will save lives.
The bills, Senate Bill 1168A and Senate Bill 6346 passed in both the state Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support. Once signed into law, they will affect every hospital and nursing home in the state, both public and private.
Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the New York State Nurses Association, said hospitals will ultimately be required to abide by minimum nurse-to-patient ratios set by clinical staffing committees annually, and nursing homes will have to meet standards for daily nursing time for each resident.
“This law is a pathway toward getting the kind of support that patients need in order to get the care that they deserve,” Sheridan-Gonzalez stated.
Opponents of the legislation said it will strain the resources of financially struggling long-term care facilities. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not said if he will sign the bills.
The Nurses Association said understaffing at New York hospitals and nursing homes has been a chronic problem. And Sheridan-Gonzalez noted the pandemic added urgency to finding a solution.
“This is what the trauma was that we faced during COVID, making life-and-death decisions based on scarcity,” Sheridan-Gonzalez explained. “We had staffing based on scarcity, we had PPE based on scarcity, and people got sick and died directly related to that.”
The law will require the state Department of Health to establish new minimum staffing standards for intensive care units and critical-care units, which must go into hospitals’ annual staffing plans.
And Sheridan-Gonzalez pointed out the law requires hospitals to make staffing data publicly available to staff and patients.
“Now the public will be made aware,” Sheridan-Gonzalez remarked. “There’s transparency and accountability in what hospitals actually have on deck taking care of patients.”
The bills also establish an independent commission to study the effectiveness of the new law, and to make recommendations for further legislative action.