Bake sale for safe staffing

NYSNA nurses at Montefiore-Moses handed out treats to children from a local elementary school at the Dec. 5 bake sale.

NYSNA nurses greeted visitors to Montefiore Medical Center’s Moses, Weiler, Westchester Square, and Home Care divisions on December 5 with tables of holiday baked goods and holiday wishes, mitigated by a serious and sobering message: RN understaffing at the hospital remains a persistent problem.

As a crowd gathered outside the Moses Division entrance, NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, described a marked deterioration in recent years of respect for patients’ dignity and bedside nurses.

Montefiore was among the twelve private sector New York City hospitals covering 17,000 NYSNA nurses that settled a contract in summer 2015. As part of its agreement, it committed to filling 200 vacancies and adding 55 new full-time RNs. A year-and-a-half later, Montefiore has not made good on its staffing promises.

Rising RN vacancies

To make matters worse, the hospital’s vacancies have since risen and now stand at 231. Xenia Greene, an RN in the Pediatric ICU, said the vacancies exacerbate already poor staffing, “Nurses quit. We can’t keep nurses in our unit due to short staffing.”

The nurses noted that while Montefiore says it can’t afford to hire more nurses, it pays its CEO $4.9 million a year — more than any other hospital CEO in New York City — and has gone on a regional buying spree to build its network.

Naomi Cordova, an RN with 27 years in Montefiore’s Children’s Hospital, has seen upward spikes in both acuity and volume. “We frequently get ICU patients on my floor, which we shouldn’t. We’re physically running out of space, converting singles to doubles. We’re caring for more and sicker patients but with the same level of staff. And it’s not fair to these critically ill children. We don’t have the nurses, the specialized equipment or even the doctors to care for these patients.”

Collette Dobbins, a pediatric oncology nurse, hates to see Montefiore treating the hospital as if it’s Wall Street. “Shame on them! We’re not dealing with figures. These are peoples’ lives! I see critically ill children on my floor that may have to wait days for a bed in the PICU, where they belong and will get the proper level of care. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Nurses continue to meet with the Community Board, elected officials, and others on the hospital’s staffing issues.

Proceeds from the sale were sent to Mocho Village, a non-profit community health and education advocacy organization started by Montefiore nurse Dennis Stanberry (see March-April NY Nurse on Mocho’s outstanding work).

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