NEW YORK NURSE: September 2010
by Mark Genovese
RNs at Ellis Hospital simply want management to demonstrate that it’s committed to safe staffing.
The RNs are asking hospital officials to incorporate the Schenectady facility’s 2009 core staffing numbers into their next contract.
Including staffing guidelines in a contract would provide the nurses with a means of legal recourse should the hospital fail to meet the guidelines. Yet, Ellis management doesn’t believe that nurses should have this right or that patients need this protection. As a result, more than 200 Ellis RNs conducted an informational picket on a sweltering July 7. Despite the heat, some local elected public officials also took part.
Enforceable staffing guidelines are an important factor in establishing a workplace environment that encourages RN recruitment and retention, as are competitive wages and benefits. Yet Ellis management offered no salary increase for this year and only a minuscule increase for some nurses next year. It is also proposing to cut benefits further reducing the payout of sick time the RNs could receive when they retire.
The most-recent contract for the 670 RNs was originally to have expired on Feb 28, 2010, but had been extended to June 21. No additional extensions were agreed to by the parties and the nurses are now working without a contract.
“Ellis already has written staffing guidelines on file,” said Kathleen Korman, NYSNA nursing representative. “The hospital should be held to its own assessment of what defines safe staffing. Numerous studies have shown that better RN staffing leads to better patient outcomes. So, why won’t Ellis show a commitment to be accountable to the community, as well as to its nursing staff? Can we call this a hospital of excellence?”