Gov. Cuomo Signs Legislation Establishing Committees to More Effectively Distribute Staff in General Hospitals

Press release from 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.1168-A/A.108-B) establishing clinical staffing committees in general hospitals. The staffing committees, which will be jointly composed of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, ancillary staff members providing direct patient care, and hospital administrators, will be charged with collaboratively developing clinical staffing plans that include specific guidelines on how many patients are assigned to each nurse and how many ancillary staff are assigned to each unit. The first plan must be adopted by the committee and submitted to the New York State Department of Health by July 1, 2022. The legislation also creates an advisory commission to evaluate the effectiveness of the staffing committees.

"The COVID-19 pandemic placed unprecedented strain on New York State's hospital systems and revealed a host of issues with regard to staffing and the effective allocation of resources," Governor Cuomo said. "This legislation requires hospitals to create committees that include the very same staff who treat patients on the ground every single day and come up with plans that take their concerns into consideration when allocating staff. We need to make sure nurses and ancillary staff have a voice in their hospitals, and these new requirements will make sure they collaboratively plan for the future."

Committees are responsible for taking certain factors into account when creating their plans, reviewing them, updating them annually and responding to complaints. Plans must be posted in public areas and on the DOH hospital profile website. DOH can investigate potential violations of the plans that are not resolved by the committee and issue civil penalties for failing to comply with them. After the annual July 1 adoption deadline, hospitals will be required to implement the plans by the following January 1.

Senator Gustavo Rivera said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how understaffing in our hospitals can lead to a dangerous environment for patients and workers. New Yorkers deserve safe and appropriate levels of staffing at every hospital across our State. This bill will set new standards to improve patient safety and enhance quality care for all those New Yorkers being served at these facilities. I thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for her leadership on this issue and to Governor Cuomo for signing this critical bill into law."

Assembly Member Aileen Gunther said, "I want to thank the Governor for signing safe staffing into law. Each and every single day, our nurses and frontline workers help care for those who need it most. For too long, we've seen insufficient staffing at our hospitals and nursing homes. The pandemic shed a tragic light on that fact. Today we take a step to rectify this situation. Safe staffing will help transform the way healthcare is delivered in this state. It will reduce burnout for nurses, lower workers compensation costs, and most importantly, lead to better outcomes for our patients. I am so proud to have worked alongside the thousands of nurses across New York State who helped make this day possible. We will continue to fight to ensure that every healthcare facility is properly staffed, because safe staffing saves lives."

The advisory commission will consist of nine members, including experts in staffing standards and patient care, labor organizations representing nurses and hospital representatives. The Governor, Assembly Speaker and Temporary President of the Senate will appoint one member in each of the three categories. The advisory commission will send a report to the legislature and also release a report on legislative actions to improve the quality of care in hospitals by October 31, 2024 and release a new report every three years afterwards.

New York State Nurses Association Executive Director Pat Kane said, "COVID-19 devastated hospitals throughout New York State that weren't adequately prepared to handle a pandemic, and this critical legislation will require them to have plans for the future. We need to protect the vital nurses and doctors who do the important work to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy, and these new committees will include the frontline workers who gave so much to all of us during the pandemic. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership getting this legislation passed and look forward to more accountable and prepared hospitals throughout the state."

1199SEIU President George Gresham said, "COVID-19 laid bare the fact that New York's hospitals have been severely understaffed for quite some time. As we continue to battle this ongoing pandemic, and future health crises, it is imperative that facilities have the staffing levels needed to ensure quality care. This legislation improves working conditions at New York's hospitals by creating safe and effective staffing standards to keep our hospital care teams safe, and it also imposes strict penalties on facilities if the standards aren't met. We thank Governor Cuomo for standing up to ensure that safe, responsible staffing reform is now law in New York."