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Hochul Should Hold Off On Penalties For Nursing Overtime

Legislation to lessen the mandatory overtime worked by area nursing home nurses — and possibly lead to penalties paid by nursing home owners– is awaiting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature.

The bill hasn’t yet been presented to the governor, but A.8874/S.8063 passed both houses of the state Legislature as the legislative session came to a close. In our opinion, Hochul should veto the bill.

That doesn’t mean it’s OK for nurses to work an endless series of double shifts each week. Nursing is a valuable profession in our society, but nurses should be able to have a life outside of work. Lessening nurses’ overtime is a worthy goal.

Medicaid reimbursements haven’t paid for minimum levels of care for quite some time. Then, in April, state regulations passed by the legislature in 2021 requiring at least 3.5 hours of care per resident per day took effect. That bill — which is the subject of a lawsuit — forces nursing homes to either hire additional workers or decrease their number of residents. The state’s decision to limit overtime by nurses places many nursing homes between a rock and a hard place while balancing over the Grand Canyon on a piece of flimsy string.

The triple-whammy with which the state is hitting health care providers will end up hurting patients and the elderly. Some providers are using overtime to avoid hiring additional employees, but others legitimately can’t find workers and can’t provide basic care without nurses working overtime.

If New York was serious about protecting workers and residents, the state would have increased the Medicaid reimbursement for nursing home residents so that nursing homes could afford to hire more employees and offer a higher starting wage to attract more workers. Legislators did not choose that option. Instead, they made a bad situation worse with yet another regulation that makes life harder on nursing homes and which could make life worse for the senior citizens living in our nursing homes.

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