Senator Rachel May Advances Nursing Home Package to Improve Oversight and Quality of Care

Albany, NY – Today, Senator Rachel May (D-Onondaga, Madison, Oneida) voted to pass a package of bills to better support and protect nursing home residents. This legislative package will establish a direct patient care spending ratio for nursing homes, create a taskforce to reimagine the delivery of long-term care, allow personal and compassionate care visitors, mandate disclosure of nursing home ratings, and require more infection control policies by nursing homes and require state health officials to conduct more thorough inspections.

Bills are:

  • Patient Care Ratio Reporting: This bill, S.4336 sponsored by Senator Gusatvo Rivera, bill directs the Commissioner of Health to establish a “Direct Patient Care Ratio” that would require all nursing homes to spend at least 70% of a facility’s revenue on direct patient care.
  • Publication of Nursing Home Ratings: This bill, S.553 sponsored by Senator James Sanders Jr., requires that the most recent Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rating of every nursing home to 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. that the most recent Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rating of every nursing home to 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: This bill, S.598 sponsored by Senator Rachel May, enacts the “Reimagining Long-Term Care Task Force” to create a task force studying the state of both home-based and facility-based long-term care services in the state, 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 bill, S.612 sponsored by Senator Rachel May, Creates “The Long-term Care Ombudsman Program Reform Act” by amending the current program to be more accessible and available to seniors and their families, while ensuring volunteers and advocates have the same rights and responsibilities as Long-Term Care Ombudsmen.
  • Allowing Compassionate Care-Giving Visitors: This bill, S.614A sponsored by Senator Rachel May, allows for personal care and compassionate care visitors at nursing homes.
  • Infection Inspection Audit: This bill, S.1783 sponsored by Senator James Skoufis, Directs the department of health to establish and implement an infection inspection audit and checklist on residential care facilities, nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
  • Quality Assurance Committees: This bill, S.1784 sponsored by Senator James Skoufis, Requires adult care facilities to include “quality assurance committees” in their quality assurance plans
  • Requirements for transfer, discharge and voluntary discharge: This bill, S.3058 sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, Creates requirements for transfer, discharge and voluntary discharge of residents from residential healthcare facilities
  • Standards for Ownership of Nursing Homes: This bill, S.3060 sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, Requires stricter standards for ownership of Nursing Homes through CON process – including consideration of past violations by owners and requires more notice to public during the CON process
  • DOH Death Records: This bill, S.3061 sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, Require DOH record deaths that occurred in hospitals of nursing home residents to be recorded as a “nursing home” death and require DOH to update and share data it receives with hospitals and nursing homes on communicable diseases and require
  • Transparency of Violations: This bill, S.3185 sponsored by Senator James Skoufis, requires residential health care facilities to disclose to potential residents and their family members information on where a list of violations and other actions taken against the facility can be found, and requires such facilities to inform certain persons on where they can locate the list.

“I am proud that we are moving today to restore visiting rights, beef up the system of advocacy for residents and families, and improve oversight, transparency, accountability, and infection control in nursing homes, not just in the context of the pandemic but for the long term as well,” said Senator Rachel May. “This package of bills is the result of countless hours of public hearings and anguished private conversations about love and loss. The family that didn’t learn about their father’s illness until the funeral home called them. The woman whose mother went into a facility for rehab after surgery and, because the daughter wasn’t able to visit, no one diagnosed the mom’s life-threatening infection. The many, many spouses, siblings, children and grandchildren who know their loved ones are depressed and declining from isolation but can’t get into the nursing home to give them the companionship and care they need. We hear you. We can never replace what you have lost, but we can show you that your advocacy is making the world better.”

Senator May sponsored three of the bills passed in today’s package:

The Personal and Compassionate Caregiving Visitation bill authorizes and directs the New York State Department of Health to develop rules, regulations, and guidelines authorizing and regulating visitation under certain circumstances while general visitation continues to be restricted by the pandemic. The bill will create exemptions for personal caregiving visitation, in which a designated family member or other individual who has provided essential care and support with daily tasks such as eating, dressing or bathing can continue to do so. The compassionate caregiving provision will allow for a visitation exemption not just for end-of-life circumstances, as currently interpreted by facilities, but also in cases where a resident suffers from significant changes in mental or psychosocial wellbeing as a result of isolation or other factors. Currently, Department of Health guidelines require a nursing home or adult care facility to be COVID-19 free for 14 days before they can allow family members to visit.

The  Long-term Care Ombudsman Program Reform Act enhances the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP), supporting the volunteers who serve as advocates for residents in long-term care facilities and their families. It will increase visibility of the program, strengthen communication with DoH, and generally raise the profile of this important resource.

The Reimagining Long-term Care Task Force will bring experts together from a wide range of areas of expertise to propose solutions to the systemic deficiencies in long-term care and to the problems that arose in the context of the pandemic. Members would include care workers, industry and state agency professionals, advocates, and those with expertise in a wide range of relevant areas, including elder law, senior housing, and racial disparities in long-term care. The Task Force will report the findings of its study by December 1, 2021, and follow that with a full report, including recommendations for further action and legislation, by May 2022.

“This devastating pandemic is a wake-up call for New York to finally address systemic challenges that have plagued our elder care systems for too long,” says Senator May. “Staff shortages, caregivers forced to work multiple jobs to make a living wage, lax infection controls, chronic funding issues, lack of transparency and oversight — these and other issues increased the vulnerability of older New Yorkers to this deadly virus, especially those living in nursing homes. We have a critical opportunity — and a responsibility — to rethink the whole system of long-term care in a way that truly prioritizes the needs of older New Yorkers and those who care for them.”