On June 18, in a victory for all nurses and healthcare workers in New York, groundbreaking staffing legislation for hospitals and nursing homes became law.
The legislation, a pair of landmark laws—the Hospital Clinical Staffing Committees and Disclosure Act (A108B/S1168A) and the Standard Minimum Nursing Home Staffing Levels Act (A7119/S6346) — is a result of your steadfast advocacy for over a decade which continued, unwavering, as you faced unprecedented crisis conditions, putting yourself at risk on the frontlines while safeguarding the lives of others.
“Safe Staffing Saves Lives” is a part of the vernacular of the troubled state of healthcare in New York today — due largely to the efforts of NYSNA members. From Buffalo to Gloversville, Albany to Valhalla, the Bronx to Syosset, and on Staten Island, these words spoke to patients crammed into ERs with too few RNs, some admitted only to be on stretchers in hallways for hours on end.
Thousands of miles
NYSNA members walked thousands of miles on picket lines this past decade, protesting unsafe staffing. You presented petitions to management, lobbied legislators in Albany and testified across the state: Mortality and morbidity go up when staffing is unsafe.
Your Protests of Assignment were a critical component in the fight for safe staffing.
But we need them even more under new law! They will become part of the reporting process to the New York State Department of State (DOH) and Legislature where they will serve to make the case for staffing ratios, evidence recognized by the terms of the law. That’s a big win.
Over the finish line
Worker representatives — from NYSNA and CWA District 1 and 1199SEIU — came together, proposing solutions to state legislators and healthcare industry representatives. In the end, our united effort pushed these laws over the finish line. It’s a win for all of us.
Combined, the two laws bring New York closer than ever before to universal safe staffing standards in every hospital and nursing home throughout the state, regardless of zip code, regardless of whether the facility is public or private, not-for-profit or for-profit, regardless of whether they are union or non-union.
We applaud the State Legislature for prioritizing the safety of patients and nursing home residents, as well as Governor Cuomo for his final imprimatur.
At hospitals, the law empowers all direct care staff in the determination of staffing levels and establishes a statewide, publicly reported enforcement mechanism when standards are not met. (See “Getting into gear,” pp. 4-6)
The second of the laws sets minimum nursing home staffing levels by requiring all nursing homes to meet minimum staffing levels set at 3.5 hours-per-resident day. These include standards for Registered Nurses (RNs), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), Nursing Assistants (NAs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) at respective hours of care.
Direct care experience
With a statutory mandated seat at the table, nurses and other healthcare workers will draw upon their direct care experience to develop staffing plans and oversee their implementation and enforcement. Staffing plans must be expressed in guidelines, ratios, grids or matrices that show, in the case of RNs, how many patients are assigned to each nurse. Wherever a NYSNA contract includes a staffing ratio or grid, they must be included in the enforceable staffing plan under the law. Staffing plans must be adopted and submitted to the DOH for posting on its website. This level of transparency is an enormous breakthrough. It gives the public and policy makers details reflecting hospital conditions.
These laws are essential to our duty to advocate for our patients.
We now have in place a process which moves us closer to statewide universal ratios… closer to a more equal healthcare system.