The state of New York, an early epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care facilities, implemented a set of permanent legal updates to its nursing home laws in the wake of the pandemic — with a particular focus on future pandemic planning.
Empire State nursing homes have 90 days to develop a pandemic preparation plan — which must be updated annually afterward — that covers a range of topics such as updating families of the status inside each facility and no-cost access to teleconferencing services to keep in touch with loved ones.
“Given the congregate nature and resident population typically served in residential health care facilities, older adults often with underling health conditions, it is crucial that such facilities have a comprehensive and actionable plan in place in advance of public health emergencies, such as the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, in order to protect high-risk residents, health care personnel, and visitors from infection, hospitalization, and death,” the bill’s formal justification reads.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose administration has faced pointed criticism over the state’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes, signed the bill into law late last week.
Under the new requirements, pandemic plans must be made available to the general public on each facility’s website, and include a detailed strategy for communicating with residents’ family members at least once per week. Operators must provide, free of charge, “remote videoconference or equivalent communication methods with family members and guardians,” according to the new law, while updating families of infected residents once per day.
In addition, operators must have a plan to reserve post-acute and long-term care beds for residents who must be hospitalized, and prove that they have a way to secure two months’ worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) in an emergency.
Providers that do not comply with the edict face the potential for civil penalties, starting with a notice of non-compliance and eventually rising to fines.
“Within 30 days after the residential health care facility’s receipt of written notice of non-compliance, such residential health care facility shall submit a plan of correction in such form and manner as specified by the commissioner for achieving compliance with its plan and with the applicable regulations,” the bill reads. “The commissioner shall ensure each such residential health care facility complies with its plan of correction and the applicable regulations.”
The bill was jointly introduced by State Sen. Julia Salazar and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, both Democrats of Brooklyn.