New York Attorney General Letitia James and 1199SEIU President George Gresham on Monday called for stronger protections for nursing home workers who have been on the front lines of the pandemic for more than two years.
A press release said, “New York’s nursing homes were devastated by the pandemic, claiming the lives of thousands of residents and essential workers who worked throughout the crisis. In a report that her office released in January 2021, Attorney General James revealed that many nursing homes were ill-equipped and ill-prepared to deal with this crisis because of poor staffing levels and a lack of compliance with infection control protocols, which put residents and workers at increased risk of harm.”
James and Gresham renewed their calls to require nursing homes to implement “appropriate staff-to-resident ratios and invest sufficiently in employee wages and facility operations.”
“For more than two years, these essential workers have worked around the clock to protect and provide for our most vulnerable residents,” James said. “As the pandemic devastated our communities, it became painfully clear that our health care industry was ill-equipped to deal with such a crisis. Chronic understaffing, lack of infection control protocols, and poor training contributed to the tragic deaths of nursing home residents and workers alike. These essential workers laid down their lives for the rest of us, and it’s time for us to give them the support they need and deserve.”
Gresham said, “Nursing home residents and their caregivers are urgently waiting on full implementation of nursing home reform in New York to bring them the relief they need. Every day that goes by without nursing home operators being held accountable to basic standards of care puts residents at further risk. We applaud Attorney General James for her unwavering commitment to uncovering the critical failures of the industry during this pandemic and lending her voice in support of New York’s most vulnerable people.”
Mary Samaroo, a licensed practical nurse at a skilled nursing facility in Queens, said, “What I’ve seen is care and compassion replaced by a focus on revenue and filling beds regardless of whether we have enough staff or staff trained to care for complicated residents. How you treat your staff is a reflection of how you view the residents. This employer seems to view both as a way to spend less and drive up profits. We need both the new spending and staffing laws to be implemented and enforced because too many employers won’t do it on their own.”
Since March 2020, James has been investigating nursing homes throughout New York state based on allegations of patient neglect and other “concerning conduct” that may have jeopardized the health and safety of residents and employees. She released a report on the status of those investigations in January 2021 that revealed “nursing homes’ lack of compliance with infection control protocols put residents at increased risk of harm, and facilities that had lower prepandemic staffing ratings had higher COVID-19 fatality rates. The report also revealed that the New York State Department of Health undercounted the number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19 by as much as 50%.”
NYS Health Facilities Association Statement in Response to AG, 1199SEIU
Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, a statewide organization representing more than 450 not-for profit, proprietary and government sponsored skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, issued the following statement in response to the joint press conference held about nursing homes.
“New York is in the midst of a long-term care workforce crisis that threatens access to essential skilled nursing and assisted living care throughout our state. For the past 14 years, New York has cut over $1 billion in necessary funding to nursing homes, severely impacting the ability of providers to compete in today’s labor market for essential care workers. These cuts and the state’s incredibly low Medicaid nursing home reimbursement rates directly limit the ability of providers to retain current staff and compete for new workers.”
“It’s been said that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging! 1199 SEIU’s efforts to advance the unrealistic 70/40 and 3.5 staffing mandates during a workforce crisis is like advancing a law to make the sun rise in the west. It’s simply not possible!”
“Recognizing that New York is facing a once-in-a-generation health care staffing crisis, Gov. Hochul has issued an executive order staying these 70/40 and 3.5 staffing mandate laws, recognizing that there are not enough workers and not enough revenue to implement these initiatives, which her administration inherited from the prior administration.”
“Special interest press conferences in support of unattainable staffing mandates do nothing to solve New York’s long-term care workforce crisis. Only collaboration between government, providers and labor working together to advance tangible actions such as increasing the state’s nation-leading-low Medicaid rate, and implementing initiatives to recruit and retain workers will solve New York’s long-term care workforce crisis.”
The New York State Health Facilities Association stated, “Hunter Hanson & Co., a certified public accounting firm, has conducted for several years a comprehensive national survey of Medicaid rates set by states across the country. The most recent analysis of the year 2018 found New York state's daily nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rate fell short of costs by an average of $54.77, which is the highest shortfall in the nation.”