State Senate Passes Package of Bills to Protect Nursing Home Residents

New York State Senator Peter Harckham
State Sen. Peter Harckham supported the 11 bills that looks to protect nursing home residents and increase accountability and transparency at the facilities.

Members of the New York State Senate moved forward Monday with an 11-bill package that is designed to better support and protect nursing home residents.

Legislation approved by the Senate and supported by Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro), is a continuation of efforts made to safeguard residents of New York since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

The legislation passed Monday will establish a direct patient care spending ratio for nursing homes, provide greater transparency regarding violations at facilities and require state health officials to conduct more thorough inspections. 

“This new legislation, aimed at improving the quality of long-term care, includes developing regulations that will allow compassionate care-giving visitors at facilities in the state,” said Harckham, who co-sponsored the visitation bill and several others in the package.

“It is essential that we consider the emotional well-being of nursing home residents and their loved ones while assuring the safety of everyone concerned and yet providing opportunities for in-person visits.”

The action comes after intensifying criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his actions from both Republicans and some Democrats for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis relating to nursing home deaths.

A Jan. 28 report from state Attorney General Letitia James found that the Cuomo administration underreported nursing home deaths from the coronavirus by about 50 percent.

Earlier this month, 14 Democratic state senators joined Republicans by calling for the end of the governor’s emergency powers that went into effect nearly a year ago.

The legislation passed by the Senate includes:
  • Patient Care Ratio Reporting – This bill directs the Commissioner of Health to establish a “Direct Patient Care Ratio” that would require all nursing homes to spend at least 70 percent of a facility’s revenue on direct patient care.
  • Publication of Nursing Home Ratings – Requires that the most recent Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rating of every nursing home be prominently displayed on the home page of the Department of Health’s website and at each nursing home facility’s website and displayed at the facility for view by the general public.
  • Reimagining Long-Term Care Task Force – Enacts the Reimagining Long-Term Care Task Force that would study the state of both home-based and facility-based long-term care services in throughout New York, and to make recommendations on potential models of improvement to long-term care services for older New Yorkers. 
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Reform Act – This proposal would expand the current program to be more accessible and available to seniors and their families while promoting the volunteer advocate program, and improve interactions between the Department of Health and the ombudsman program regarding complaints. 
  • Allowing Compassionate Care-Giving Visitors – Creates a standardized program to allow personal care and compassionate care visitors at nursing homes. 
  • Infection Inspection Audit – The Department of Health would establish and implement an infection control inspection audit and checklist for residential care facilities. 
  • Quality Assurance Committees – Requires adult care facilities to include quality assurance committees in their quality assurance plans.
  • Requirements for Transfer, Discharge and Voluntary Discharge – Creates requirements for the transfer, discharge and voluntary discharge of residents from residential healthcare facilities
  • Standards for Ownership of Nursing Homes – Requires more review of ownership of nursing homes through the certificate of need process, including consideration of past violations at other facilities by owners, and requires more notice to the public during the Certificate of Need process.
  • Department of Health Death Records – Requires the Department of Health to record COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents who died in hospitals to be recorded as a “nursing home” death, and require the department to update and share data it receives with hospitals and nursing homes on communicable diseases.
  • Transparency of Violations – Forces residential health care facilities to disclose in writing to potential residents and their family members the website where a list of violations and other actions taken against the facility can be found.
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