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New York caregiver law may raise legal questions for some

The law is a dynamic thing. With perhaps only a few exceptions there is no such thing as a one-and-done piece of legislation. This can be particularly true for rules and regulations that cover health care delivery in New York.

Hospitals, clinics and practices and the doctors, nurses and support personnel they employ, can find that the environment in which they operate changes quickly. And sometimes the shifts that take place can seem so jarring as to cause administrative and compliance whiplash. Wading through the layers of applicable statutes that may apply is something to do in the company of attorneys well versed in dealing with the myriad issues that can crop up.

This comes to mind with the latest bill signing news out of Albany this week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo put pen to paper to enact a law requiring hospitals to allow patients to designate caregivers who will be responsible for care after discharge. The individuals named could well be trusted family members, but they don't have to be.

Under the provisions of the law, caregivers have to be identified while the patient is hospitalized. Once accepting the responsibility, the caregiver will be included in the discharge planning.

The hospital will be expected to share any important information relative to the patient's ongoing care, including details about transfers to other facilities. If the patient will need at-home care, such as bandage changing or administration of medicines, the hospital must train the caregiver on how to handle those tasks.

The law covers some 200 general hospitals in the state. It is due to take effect in 180 days. Between now and then, the New York Health Department is tasked with coming up with policies governing the details of what must be covered in discharge instructions.

One question we think facilities should be asking now is what will need to change for them to remain compliant.

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