Assemblyman Burke Passes Safe Staffing Legislation to Better Protect Western NY Nurses and Patients

Assemblyman Patrick Burke (D-Buffalo) announced that he passed legislation to improve nurse staffing levels in New York State health care facilities and increase accountability and transparency at hospitals, a cause he’s been fighting for since entering public service in 2013.

“Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, our dedicated nurses have been on the front lines, putting their own health and safety at risk to care for their patients,” said Burke. “Even before the pandemic hit, these heroes deserved support to ensure a safe working environment for themselves and their patients, yet for far too long, understaffing in our hospitals and nursing homes has gone unchecked. The measures my colleagues and I helped pass today will implement safe staffing standards to help ensure our essential workers have the support they need to provide high-quality care for our loved ones and prepare us for future emergencies.”

One of the bills Burke passed would require hospitals to establish clinical staffing committees responsible for developing and overseeing a clinical staffing plan (A.108-B). This bill allows for the creation of advisory committees to set nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals and guidelines for the number of ancillary staff in each unit. These committees would consist of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, ancillary staff members providing direct patient care and hospital administrators. Burke also helped pass a measure that would direct the Department of Health (DOH) commissioner to establish minimum nurse staffing levels for nursing homes to promote the highest standards of resident health and well-being (A.7119). The minimum nursing home staffing standard must include at least 3.5 hours of nursing care per resident per day, of which at least 2.2 hours would need to be provided by nursing assistants and 1.1 hours would need to be provided by licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs).

Research has shown that hospitals with lower nurse staffing levels have higher rates of hospital-acquired complications, which increase medical malpractice and other penalties from these avoidable occurrences. Ensuring sufficient hospital staffing not only protects patients but also helps bolster retention of nurses and promotes safer working conditions, noted Burke.