Nursing home operators are facing increased calls for minimum staffing requirements in the wake of an ongoing workforce crisis facing the industry nationwide. 

A proposed state law in New York, the “Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act,” was introduced by Democratic state Assemblyman Ron Kim earlier this month and would require nursing homes and hospitals to meet minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios or face the possibility of losing their facility operating license. 

The legislation specifically requires facilities that care for subacute patients to maintain a minimum ratio of one nurse to every five patients. It also requires nursing homes to ensure that 2.8 hours of care per resident per day is provided by a certified nurse aide; 1.3 hours of care by a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse; and 0.75 hours by an RN. 

The 4.8-hour daily proposal exceeds the 4.1 hours of daily direct nursing care called for in a bill passed by the Rhode Island state senate on Tuesday. That body passed a similar bill last year that went nowhere in the state House.

The New York staffing proposal has gained steam over the last week among lawmakers and nursing advocates following a report that found the state may have undercounted coronavirus nursing home deaths by as much as 50%, the NY Post reported. The government analysis also criticized provider staffing practices and low staffing levels for infection control lapses.

Provider groups in the past have typically opposed minimum staffing requirements. They also cite a need for more government funding to hire more qualified workers to meet any new requirements.

“The state will have to find a way to fund the minimum staffing program, which has always been a stumbling block in the past,” Michael Balboni, executive director of the New York Greater Health Care Facilities Association, told the news agency. 

Workforce has been a key concern during the public health crisis. A November LeadingAge survey found that 73% of providers reported having troubles finding enough staff to cover shifts, 71% are struggling with recruiting new workers; and 65% have had a hard time finding others to cover for sick workers.