State evaluates bill that would require hiring more nurses

Elmhurst Hospital in Queens
Elmhurst Hospital in Queens
Chie Inou/Shutterstock
Elmhurst Hospital in Queens

State evaluates bill that would require hiring more nurses

A new Health Department report said it could be too costly to implement for some hospitals and nursing homes.
August 18, 2020

The state Health Department released a report – nearly eight months past its December due date – that questions a proposed bill that would require hospitals and nursing homes to hire more nurses.

The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, which failed to pass last year and every other year that it has been introduced to the state Legislature, would mandate that nurses have fewer patients to care for during their shifts. For example, nurses would only have to care for one patient at a time in emergency care and five patients at a time in rehabilitation units. Supporters of the legislation have argued that lowering the number of patients assigned to nurses will relieve many of the work-related stresses for nurses, something the state’s nurses have been pushing for since the 1990s.

The health department’s report said that the new bill would require the state’s hospitals and nursing homes to hire 70,000 more nurses. However, the report said it had “limited data available” on the number of nurses working in the state, something that hospitals are required to report to the state by law. The state’s nursing staffing shortage could last through the next decade, according to the health department.

The health department also said that the proposal would create enormous costs, close to $4 billion, making the bill very difficult for most state hospitals and nursing homes to follow. However, New York State Nurses Association Executive Director Pat Kane said the state’s estimated cost of hiring more nurses wasn’t right. “We do not agree with that cost,” Kane told Spectrum News. “That’s the number that we have seen thrown around over the years. And as I’ve said, it almost looks like the study started from that number and worked backwards.”

The New York State Nurses Association also took issue with the delays that led up to the report’s publication and argued that higher staffing levels could have proved valuable during the state’s coronavirus outbreak. “Safe staffing could have saved lives during the COVID pandemic, and if implemented uniformly through New York, will improve patient outcomes, save lives, and increase New York’s capacity to respond to future public health emergencies,” the union said in a statement.

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.
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