Healthcare workers call for greater enforcement of New York clinical staffing law

Unionized healthcare workers came together May 13 to address New York state's clinical staffing law, which they say is not being enforced aggressively enough by the New York State Department of Health.

The rally occurred in Albany and included workers from hospitals across New York, represented by the Communications Workers of America District 1, New York State Nurses Association, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Public Employees Federation, New York State United Teachers and United Federation of Teachers, according to a union news release.

Elected officials, including state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Assembly members Amy Paulin, Harry Bronson, Karines Reyes, Aileen Gunther, and Phara Souffrant Forrest also attended the rally alongside the workers.

"New York healthcare workers have been sounding the alarm on unsafe working conditions and rampant understaffing at hospitals for years and are virtually the only ones holding our healthcare system together, all while caring for too many patients at once," Dennis Trainor, vice president with CWA District 1, said in the release. "The DOH needs to stop dragging its feet on safe staffing. The clinical staffing committee law was passed three years ago and enforced at the beginning of last year. Our patients can't wait any longer. This law lives and dies by what the DOH does in the next few months."

The rally comes after state legislators passed the 2025 fiscal year budget last month, and follows the state health department's adoption last June of a proposed regulation requiring hospitals to assign at least one nurse for every two patients in critical care units. It is part of a state law signed in 2021 mandating hospitals establish clinical staffing committees. 

As part of the law, hospitals are required to establish clinical staffing committees to create and submit minimum staffing plans to the state's health department. Those found in violation must submit a corrective action plan, which must be implemented upon state approval. Hospitals that don't comply could face a fine of up to $2,000 per citation and/or any other related civil penalties.  

But union representatives contend that since the law took effect in January 2023, thousands of unresolved staffing complaints have been filed on behalf of workers across the state by CWA District 1, NYSNA, and 1199SEIU.

In response to filings, state officials have conducted unannounced visits to hospitals "to investigate their adherence to the law, the result of which remains to be seen," according to the union representatives.

To date, the New York State Department of Health has investigated 409 complaints related to violations of the staffing law and issued 35 statements of deficiency related to the law, according to Monica Pomeroy, a department spokesperson.

"In March 2024, the Department issued its first $2,000 fine related to a clinical staffing investigation. That facility was fined for not producing documents needed to conduct a clinical staffing investigation," Ms. Pomeroy told Becker's.

"The department is also investigating several other complaints against hospitals for allegedly failing to provide requested information related to clinical staffing. As those matters are under review, we cannot comment further."

Union representatives say front-line caregivers continue to report chronic staffing issues, and that prompted the May 13 rally to demand enforcement of the staffing law.

The New York State Department of Health shared the following statement: "Patient safety and appropriate staffing are of vital importance to the state department of health. We have taken a rigorous approach to implementing the hospital safe staffing law, including enforcement of hospitals found to be in violation of the law."

Hospitals' staffing plans, which were posted in July 2022, are available here



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