NYSNA Online Exclusive
Union Nurses Join Forces to Protect Patients
Rally at the State Capitol, demanding end to mandatory overtime
ALBANY, N.Y., May 2, 2006 — Hundreds of nurses from four prominent nurses’ unions came to Albany today to call for legislation that would ban mandatory overtime and ensure safe nurse staffing.
Busloads of nurses came from all over the state to attend a rally on the steps of the State Capitol. They were members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the Nurse Alliance of New York State 1199 SEIU, the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF), and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).
Mandatory overtime is used by healthcare employers to keep nurses on the job beyond their regular shifts. Nurses say they are more likely to make mistakes in patient care when they work long hours. In a 2002 survey by the State Education Department, 59% of registered nurses reported they had been “mandated” – forced to work overtime.
“Nurses throughout New York State and across the country are struggling to deliver the care patients deserve,” stated 1199 SEIU Executive Vice President Jennifer Cunningham. “Chronic short staffing, low wages, and mandatory overtime have sent this industry into a crisis, and these issues need to be addressed immediately.”
“This isn’t a nursing issue. It’s a public health issue,” said Verlia Brown, president of the New York State Nurses Association and a critical care nurse at Kings County Medical Center in Brooklyn. “Short staffing and mandatory overtime put patients’ lives at risk. Our lawmakers must have the courage to ensure that patients have what is most fundamental to their well-being: care from registered professional nurses.”
“The negative effect of mandatory overtime on patients and nurses is becoming one of the most serious health care issues of our time,” said PEF President Roger Benson. “At least 11 other states have passed laws or adopted new regulations to protect the public by limiting the number of hours caregivers can work. It’s time New York state legislators and the governor addressed this problem.”
“In 2002, Capital Region reporter Michael Hurewitz died at a hospital in New York City after donating part of his liver to his brother,” said Alan B. Lubin, executive vice president of NYSUT, which represents several thousand nurses statewide. “An investigation found that Hurewitz didn’t receive adequate care after surgery due to insufficient staffing. It took his death to get the Department of Health to adopt minimum nurse staffing rules for liver transplants. Does another high-profile New Yorker have to die before the state establishes patient-to-nurse ratios for all patients?”
NYSNA is the oldest and largest state nurses’ association in the nation, with more than 34,000 members. It is the union for registered nurses working at 150 facilities in New York and New Jersey, including hospitals, nursing homes, county health departments, home care agencies, public schools, and New York City public hospitals and mayoral agencies. NYSNA is a constituent of the American Nurses Association and United American Nurses, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
NYSUT, the largest union in New York State, representing more than 525,000 classroom teachers and school employees, including 12,000 healthcare professionals: hospital nurses, school nurses, therapists, nursing instructors, lab technicians, and psychologists. NYSUT also represents academic and professional faculty at the state’s community colleges, State University of New York and City University of New York; other education professionals; and retirees.
The Nurse Alliance of New York State/1199 SEIU is the coordinating body for over 27,000 Service Employee International Union RNs, LPNs, and Advanced Practice RNs in New York State.
The New York State Public Employees Federation represents 54,000 professional public employees, including more than 8,500 registered nurses who work in the state’s 70 correctional facilities, three SUNY hospitals, 28 New York State Office of Mental Hygiene facilities; Roswell Park Cancer Institute and other state agencies.