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At the urging of PEF and the other unions representing nurses across the state, Governor Cuomo has signed legislation which requires the direct involvement of nurses in hospital staffing plan development and implementation.

For the first time, this law will require every general hospital, including the SUNY Hospitals, Roswell Cancer Institute and every other state-operated hospital as defined by Article 28 of the Public Health Law, to create a joint labor-management clinical staffing committee made up of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, ancillary staff members providing direct patient care, and hospital administrators by January 1, 2022. The committee will be responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of a clinical staffing plan that will include specific guidelines or ratios, matrices, or grids indicating how many patients are assigned to each nurse and the number of ancillary staff in each unit. The committees must take into account several factors when developing the plans, which are required to be completed and submitted to the Department of Health (DOH) by July 1 each year. In instances where the committee cannot reach consensus, the chief operating officer of the hospital will render a decision on the appropriate staffing schedule.

The DOH will be required to make regulations related to intensive and critical care unit staffing that would require at least 12 hours of registered nurse care per day. The committees will also be responsible for reviewing staffing plans, making adjustments to the plans, and responding to complaints for variations from the plans.

The staffing plans must be posted in a publicly conspicuous area and posted on the DOH website. DOH is charged with investigating potential violations of the staffing plan requirements or any unresolved complaints that were submitted to a hospital’s clinical staffing committee. The hospital may be subject to civil penalties for failing to remedy the violation if such violation was caused by their failure to act. However, DOH shall take into account unforeseeable emergency circumstances when determining whether a hospital is in violation.

DOH must also submit an annual report to the Speaker of the Assembly, the Temporary President of the Senate, and the Chairs of the Health committees of the Assembly and Senate and Governor by December 31 of each year regarding the complaints received by DOH and how they were handled.

An independent Advisory Commission also will be created consisting of nine (9) members, including experts in staffing standards and quality of patient care; labor organizations; and hospital representatives. The Governor, Assembly Speaker, and Temporary President of the Senate will appoint one member for each of the three categories.

The Advisory Commission will evaluate the staffing levels and other quality metrics related to nurse staffing in hospitals. The Advisory Commission will send a report to the Speaker of the Assembly, the
Temporary President of the Senate, and the Chairs of the Health committees of the Assembly and Senate and make a report available to the public on any further legislative action that may be necessary to improve working conditions and quality of care in hospitals by October 31, 2024, and every three years thereafter.

While this law represents an important step forward for our nurses who work in a general hospital setting, PEF will continue to advocate for the expansion of this important patient safety measure to cover other state facilities that provide care for New Yorkers, including DOCCS, OMH, OPWDD and OCFS.