Noncompliance could result in civil penalties.


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Two bills passed by the New York State Legislature set minimum staffing levels in both nursing homes and hospitals. The measures will take effect January 1, 2022.


The nursing home bill (A7119/S6346) calls for a minimum of 3.5 hours per patient per day of hands-on care, including at least 2.2 hours provided by a certified nursing assistant and 1.1 hour by either an RN or LPN providing direct care. (The average U.S. nursing home currently provides 45 RN minutes per patient per day; this number includes administrative nurses who don't work at the bedside.)


The hospital bill (A108B/S1168A) calls for all hospitals in New York State to establish a clinical staffing committee responsible for the development and oversight of staffing standards for each unit. (Staffing on critical care units must include a minimum of 12 RN hours per patient per day.) At least half of the members of these committees must be RNs or other direct care staff.


Once devised, individual hospital staffing plans are to be posted on the website of the state's Department of Health, and according to the bill, hospitals must post each unit's staffing plan along with actual daily staffing numbers in a "publicly conspicuous area on each patient care unit." The Department of Health is responsible for enforcing standards set by the hospital staffing committees and can call for civil penalties against noncompliant facilities.


Three unions representing nurses and other health care staff worked collaboratively with key legislators to help ensure passage of these bills: the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199SEIU [Service Employees International Union], and the Communications Workers of America District 1. New York State Assembly member Aileen Gunther, a sponsor of both bills, said, in a May 4 NYSNA press release, "Patients, nursing home residents, and their loved ones need to know they can come to any hospital or nursing home in the state and receive safe, quality care with enough health care workers to do the job."


The legislation also calls for the creation of an independent advisory commission to study the impact of the new staffing standards.-Betsy Todd, MPH, RN