New York Nursing Care Quality Protection Act Signed Into Law

A new law in New York will require hospitals to regularly report adverse incidents and nurse staffing levels to the state, which will then make the data available to the public to help improve the quality of nursing care and allow consumers to make informed health care decisions.

The New York Nursing Care Quality Protection Act will require hospitals to report incidents of adverse patient events, including incidents of potential medical mistakes and medication errors. The law, signed by Governor David Patterson on September 17, also requires hospitals across the state to provide detailed information on their nursing staff and unlicensed personnel providing direct care to patients.

Proponents of the new law indicate that making the data publicly available will be indispensable to people trying to decide which hospital to go to for quality care.

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The New York State Nurses Association, which lobbied in support of the new law, cited a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found the risk of patient death increased significantly when there were fewer nurses per patient at a hospital. The study found that each additional patient per registered nurse increased the death risk for the patient by 7%.

The new law is also designed to work as an indicator of potential problems at hospitals, alerting state officials to extremely low staffing levels, as well as high amounts of adverse patient incidents, such as bedsores, hospital infections and potential medical malpractice.

Hospitals will also be required to make public any data regarding complaints filed with any state or federal regulatory agency, or accreditation agency, as well as data on the investigations and findings of those complaints, under the new regulation. The number of full-time registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and unlicensed personnel providing direct care to patients will also need to be reported together with nurse-to-patient ratios.

All of the reported information will be made available to the general public once the law goes into effect in six months.

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