New York Adopts Minimum Hospital Clinical Staffing Standards

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Governor Cuomo on June 18 signed a bill passed by the Legislature in May mandating that New York hospitals establish and maintain minimum clinical staffing levels in their facilities.

The new law requires that all hospitals in the state establish a clinical staffing committee by January 1, 2022. This committee must comprise registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, ancillary staff providing direct patient care and hospital administrators. The registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and ancillary staff shall be selected by the staff members themselves (or in accordance with an applicable collective bargaining agreement). Regardless of the number of committee members, the clinical staff shall have 50 percent of the committee’s votes, with hospital administrators the other 50 percent.

The purpose of the clinical staffing committee is to develop and oversee the implementation of a hospital-wide clinical staffing plan that includes specific guidelines, matrices, ratio or grids indicating how many patients are assigned to each nurse and the number of ancillary staff in each unit. The bill specifies the factors that the committee must take into account when developing the plan, which must be submitted to the State Health Department by July 1 each year. The staffing plans must be posted in a publicly conspicuous area as well as the State Health Department hospital profile website. The committee is also responsible for reviewing the staffing plan, making any required adjustments, and responding to complaints regarding alleged variations from the plan.

The law directs the State Health Department to promulgate regulations providing for 12 hours of nursing care each day in hospitals’ intensive and critical care units. The Health Department is also responsible for investigating potential violations of the staffing plan requirements or any unresolved complaints made to the staffing committees. Hospitals may be subject to civil penalties for failing to remedy violations if the violations were caused by their failure to act. There is a safety valve provision requiring the Department to take into account unforeseeable emergency circumstances.

This new law has far-reaching potential impacts. Accordingly, hospitals should begin making plans to comply with its requirements. We will also be preparing in-service administration and staff training programs to support your organization with understanding and meeting the specifics of the new compliance requirements.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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