On December 22, 2023, Governor Hochul signed into law a new bill that amends the New York Public Health Law by strengthening communications between the Department of Health (“DOH”) and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. The concerns that led to this new law focused on the resolution of complaints raised by nursing home residents and their families that have been reported by Ombudsman staff or volunteers to DOH for investigation and follow up – including issues relating to actions, inactions, or decisions that may adversely impact the health, safety, and welfare of residents at nursing homes. This new law accomplishes the following:
(a) The law requires DOH to furnish a status report to the Ombudsman staff or volunteer who reported the issues to DOH no later than 60 days after the receipt of such issue. After the initial report, DOH shall provide additional reports no less than every 60 days thereafter until the issues are resolved. Once the issues are resolved, DOH shall also provide a timely report indicating the manner in which the issue was resolved.
(b) The law also requires cultural competency and diversity training for ombudsmen as part of the required certification training program.
(c) The law will also expand the Ombudsman outreach and awareness program to include outreach to recruit additional ombudsmen.
(d) These new provisions will take effect on June 19, 2024.
Accompanying this new law was an Approval Memorandum signed by the Governor that will result in additional modifications in the near future. The relevant language is as follows –
“All nursing home residents and their families should be kept regularly informed of the status of such investigations. However, as drafted, this bill would have given sensitive information to individuals who may not have retained their status as a LTCOP volunteer. Changes were necessary to protect the confidential health information of residents, and to clarify when residents or their families are updated on the status of complaint investigations. I have reached an agreement with the Legislature to enact these changes. On the basis of this agreement, I am pleased to sign this bill.”
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