As I write this, I don’t know what the outcome will be of our massive negotiations campaign in the Downstate region, affecting nearly 20,000 nurses. NYSNA is challenging the supremacy of the Greater NY Hospital Association (GNYHA) and the Healthcare Association of NYS (HANYS) in these negotiations and in the legislature. We’ve caught the attention of legislators in significant ways, and captured the hearts and minds of the public regarding conditions in our hospitals and the urgent need for safe staffing.
Nurses have a trusted voice
As polls continue to affirm that nursing is the profession that the public trusts the most, we are even more obliged to honor that trust by defending every patient’s right to quality care — and to be treated by a registered nurse when he or she needs one.
That is antithetical to what Corporate Healthcare and its allies are promoting: hospital closings, deskilling, reducing access to care, reductions in costs associated with caregivers — while simultaneously adding to an already hyper-inflated bureaucracy.
Hospital executives’ salaries soar, while nurses and patients endure cuts in staffing and services.
The human aspect of healthcare is disappearing in the face of mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, and computer-centered — rather than patient-centered — care.
Reimbursement is king, policy wonks and administrators are queens, and the rest of us are reduced to pawns in an irrational system that doesn’t work and that alienates, demoralizes and burns out caregivers who are desperately trying to provide the best possible care as they strain to adapt to this environment.
Who are we anyway?
NYSNA is a union, as well as a professional association, dedicated to what is commonly referred to as “healthcare justice.” What does that mean? “Every patient is a VIP,” not just the rich patient, the people with “connections,” or those with the best insurance. It also means that those who provide care must be treated with respect for the work that we do, and receive compensation and benefits that support our families and a decent quality of life.
As key players in both the labor movement and the healthcare movement — both of which are in motion on a state-wide and national level — NYSNA nurses and other healthcare professionals have a voice that is finally being heard loud and clear. Recognizing this, hospital administration is doing everything it can to silence us: using intimidation, tactics to cow us into submission in our facilities, and spreading misinformation in an attempt to discredit us in the media and the legislature.
Instead of joining us in our legislative initiatives to adopt Safe Staffing Ratios and a Single Payer System (expanded and improved Medicare for all) that are finally making headway, they spend millions on lobbying to block our staffing bill and mysteriously avoid engaging in any conversation about changing the reimbursement system to one that is proven all over the world to provide better care, is all-inclusive and ultimately costs less.
Through numerous job actions and a strong public presence, nurses and other healthcare professionals throughout the state are coming together to fulfill the commitment that we have to the health and well-being of our communities. Many of us are nervous, even scared, to take the steps we are taking to fight for healthcare justice — even if it means voting to authorize a strike.
What are our alternatives?
Silence in the face of healthcare injustice? Complacency when subjected to disrespectful treatment at work? Acceptance of contracts that do not adequately address our concerns? Shaking our heads, but allowing healthcare disparities to continue? Allowing our fears to paralyze us, and leaving our fate to the people who created the problems?
“COURAGE is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon
Let’s move forward with courage!