Department of Health releases fatally flawed staffing report

Nurses Standing Up for Safe Staffing

After substantial pressure from NYSNA and our union allies, the New York State Department of Health finally released their highly anticipated study on nurse staffing enhancements Friday August 14th.

The study was mandated in the 2019-2020 New York State Budget, after statewide mobilization by frontline nurses and patient advocates through the New York Campaign for Patient Safety. But the study was released eight months late, supposedly so the NYSDOH could incorporate New York’s COVID-19 experience.

Unfortunately, what we got was a “study” that recycles long-standing arguments from big hospital and nursing home operators that safe staffing is too costly and will undermine “flexibility”.

This week we released a deeper analysis of the numerous flaws in the NYSDOH report, from its inflated cost estimates to its failure to examine racial disparities in healthcare.

Fortunately, reporters and elected leaders have also recognized just how flimsy the DOH report actually is.

State Senator James Skoufis was among the many lawmakers to condemn the report, posting on social media that it’s a “good thing we waited eight months” for the study, which “endorsed no solution” to a nursing shortage “we already knew exists.”

On August 19 the Albany Times Union published a lengthy story detailing the report’s many shortcomings.

The report’s flaws were even more pronounced when compared with a new peer-reviewed study of nurse staffing in New York and Illinois from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research.

The report found that 65 percent of nurses reported delays in care were common because of insufficient staff and 40 percent reported frequent delays in care due to missing supplies including medications and missing or broken equipment.  And these hospital conditions were in the months before the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the 2-page summary here.

COVID-19 has demonstrated that guaranteed minimum staffing standards are a matter of life or death for too many New Yorkers. And we're thankful that the DOH report has reignited debate over how to address the severe staffing shortage in hospitals and nursing homes across the state.

Nurses know what our patients need, and that's why NYSNA members won't stop organizing until every patient in every hospital across the state can count on a guaranteed a minimum staffing standard. Nurses were out in full force in the Bronx on Tuesday August 25, with actions at Lincoln Hospital and Jacobi Hospital demanding Albany raise the revenue needed to guarantee safe staffing. On Thursday August 27, NYSNA members at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Utica were also on the streets, demanding the hosptial reverse dangerous staffing cuts made during the COVID-19 surge. We'll continue to stand up for our patients until legislators in Albany take action. And we wont let big hospitals, or their allies at the DOH, put our patients at risk.

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