Two Skoufis bills to improve nursing home safety signed into law

Originally published in Mid Hudson News

ALBANY – A pair of his bills aimed at improving safety standards for residents and workers in adult care and nursing home facilities have been signed into law. The two bills, S1783 and S1784A, sponsored by Senator James Skoufis (D, Cornwall) implement a nursing home infectious disease inspection protocol as well as a new requirement for every long term care facility to establish infectious disease quality assurance plans. Failure to adhere to these new standards will result in the nursing home losing state funding.

Amid the summer 2020 wave of COVID-19, the unpreparedness of nursing homes led them to become the unofficial epicenters of the pandemic, Skoufis noted. These new measures promote proficiency, safety, and preparedness, while setting quality assurance standards to protect the health and wellbeing of residents and employees alike, he said. The legislation was developed following 20 hours of oversight hearings that Skoufis led, examining the COVID nursing home crisis.

“Those working or living in residential care facilities saw firsthand the life and death consequences of COVID-19, as lapses in safety and the fragility of our healthcare industry emerged,” said Skoufis. “Following the legislature’s August 2020 hearings on residential health care facilities, there was no missing the critical need for reform.”  That led to the codification of the safeguards, he said.

“As we experience the massive increase in COVID-19 in our nursing homes and other health care settings, we are again reminded why infection control is so critical to protecting residents and long term care staff,” said 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Executive Vice President Greg Speller.

“The New York State Nurses Association has consistently advocated for stronger regulation of the healthcare industry to improve staffing, quality of care, and to protect the health and safety of patients, residents, and front-line staff,” said NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane, RN. “The ravages of the COVID pandemic in our nursing homes and long-term care facilities would have been less severe if more stringent safeguards had been in place. These measures, along with recently enacted staffing standards, will help us to prepare for and avoid future catastrophes.”