Staffing Victory for NYS Hospital & Nursing Home Workers

July 19, 2021

1199SEIU members’ Invest in Quality Care campaign scored another big win in May, when the NYS Assembly and Senate passed legislation that requires minimum staffing at all nursing homes. Both houses also passed a bill that addresses safe staffing levels in hospitals.

“I’m very pleased that the minimum staffing bill in nursing homes has finally passed,” said Beverly Miller, a veteran Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Rosewood Nursing Home in East Greenbush, NY.

“Hopefully now there will be enough staff to care for the residents. We will have more time to spend with them, giving them the comfort and support they need and deserve.”

The nursing home bill requires a daily minimum of 3.5 hours of care for each facility resident—and includes penalties for non-compliance. Previously there have been no minimums for staffing or hours of patient care. 1199 has been advocating for systemic nursing home reform for decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened and amplified several care issues at nursing homes, including not enough caregiver/resident time and short-staffing, which are interrelated issues.

Numerous studies have shown that the quality of care a resident receives is correlated to the hours of care they receive. According to the NYS Attorney General, some 15,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus during the pandemic.

“Our residents deserve more time and attention than we are able to give them,” said Malcolm Olaker, a CNA in The Pines in Poughkeepsie. “This is a victory—a long time coming. Resident care hourly minimums in our nursing homes is critical, because it means that we will be able to provide more direct patient care to each individual, rather than running around from one to the other, quickly going in and out. When our facilities are safely staffed our residents can get the care they need from us, and we can go home at the end of the day feeling like we made a difference instead of just feeling exhausted.”

This nursing home staffing legislation comes on the heels of a win in the NYS budget last month that requires nursing homes to spend 70 percent of their revenue on direct patient care, including 40 percent on staffing. 1199SEIU also led the effort for a law that requires more accountability and transparency throughout the nursing home industry.

A hospital bill that also won passage establishes staffing committees composed of front-line healthcare workers who will determine staffing plans in hospitals, creating strong new transparency and accountability measures. It would be the only law in the country recognizing the full-care team approach.

“I have been a nursing assistant on a medical surgical floor, as well as being a CNA in a skilled nursing facility. I, like all unit clerk/CNA/ patient care techs, work with RNs hand-in-hand every day. They depend on me to do my best work so they can do the very best of the parts that only they can do. It comes down to the fact that when we have more staff, we have happier and healthier patients,” said Nina Geiss, specialized nursing technician in the ICU Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown. “If this past year has shown us anything, it is that human interaction, especially in a healthcare setting, is so vitally important to quality nursing care.

1199 Magazine - May / June 2021