Manual lifting of patients and nursing home residents causes injuries every year to nurses and other bedside care workers while also putting patients at risk of falls, bruises and skin tears. OSHA has determined that manual lifting of people cannot be done safely even with the best methods. Modern technology exists to safely lift people. And in New York, a new law (The Safe Patient Handling Act) requires hospitals and nursing homes to develop programs with the goal of eliminating manual lifting of patients and nursing home residents. The NYS Department of Health has now issued its advisory Safe Patient Handling Best Practice Guideline for hospitals and nursing homes to carry out New York’s important new law on safe lifting and moving in healthcare.
Patient & Family is now serving — together with representatives from hospitals, nursing homes, nurses associations and others — on the NYS Department of Health “Safe Patient Handling Work Group” to develop recommendations to the Department for effective implementation of New York’s important new law on safe lifting and moving in healthcare, with which all hospitals and nursing home must come into compliance. The work group report will be issued this summer.
Patient & Family, NYPIRG and the NY Statewide Senior Action Council are urging hospitals and nursing homes to comply in good faith with a new law — adopted as part of the State Budget — on safe lifting and moving in healthcare.
Tucked inside the state budget recently passed in Albany is an important measure for patient safety, one that could reduce injuries for hospital patients, nursing home residents and healthcare workers. The new law requires hospitals and nursing homes to develop plans to ensure safety when patients or nursing home residents need help in moving about or being repositioned, such as in a chair or bed for comfort or to prevent bedsores. While we are praising the measure as an important first step, we are also cautioning that the new law’s impact will depend on hospitals and nursing homes to comply with the law in good faith. Read our press release here.
The Risk Management Quarterly, a journal of the Association for Healthcare Risk Management of New York, has published an article in its Fall 2013 issue by New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment entitled, “Safe Lifting and Moving in Healthcare: An Emerging Trend of Caring Technology.” It cites the leadership of the U.S. Veterans Health Administration and several states in promoting safer lifting and moving in healthcare (often called “Safe Patient Handling”) through an initiative that combines the use of modern equipment with training and engagement of direct care staff. Citing federal studies and an analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute, it concludes that the result of such programs is improved safety for both patients and healthcare staff, as well as substantial cost savings for hospitals and nursing homes. Maintaining a program is a challenge, and lack of accountability means a program can atrophy and no one outside the facility will know, leaving the public unprotected. Our article urges healthcare facilities to engage healthcare workers and also patients and nursing home residents in planning and evaluating safety programs. It also provides a useful list of questions a facility can ask to obtain feedback from its patients or residents regarding its lifting and moving practices. Read more.
Good news! The New York State Department of Health will press hospitals to comply with the patient’s right to choose visitors. Patient & Family has received a very positive letter from the Department of Health thanking us, along with NYPIRG and Lambda Legal, for our August 2013 letter calling their attention to the issue of hospital compliance with the patient’s legal right to choose who can visit, including in intensive or special care units. The Department’s letter (dated Sept. 17, 2013) states: “As a result of your report ‘Sick, Scared and Separated from Loved Ones II: progress and Problems in Hospitals Disclosing the Patient’s Right to Choose Who Can Visit,’ the Department is working with the applicable Hospital Associations to reach full compliance with state and federal hospital visitation policies throughout the state.”
The patient — not the hospital — has the right to decide who can visit at bedside when visitation is restricted for clinical reasons, such as in the intensive care unit. That visitor might be a family member or “significant other,” or it might be a trusted friend or adviser. The patient decides. This is the law at both the New York State and federal level. Yet many hospitals still misinform the public on their websites, either claiming directly or implying that visitation in certain special care units is limited to “family” or “immediate family only,” without a statement that the patient decides who “family” is – and it might not be a blood relative. This new report — issued by our organization and the New York Public Interest Research Group, in consultation with Lambda Legal — finds that nearly one out of five large (200 or more staffed beds) hospitals — 17% (17 out of 99) — still have outdated language on their websites. This is an improvement over the situation we found in 2012, when 30% of the hospital websites had such problems, but more progress should be made. On the positive front, more than one-third of these hospital websites have clear, informative language about the patient’s right to choose visitors — a number that has more than tripled since 2012. In response to the issuance of this report, several hospitals have already improved their websites to comport with the federal and state regulations. We hope that more will follow. Read our full report and find your hospital in one of the tables in our appendices.