When Super Storm Sandy hit New York, NYSNA’s nurses stood ready to save lives. Their heroic efforts made a lasting impression on journalist Sarah Jaffe. Among the movers and shakers featured in Jaffe’s new book, “Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt,” are NYSNA’s nurses, who the author chronicles for their leadership roles among public health professionals both during the storm and in it’s wake.
Jaffe told New York Nurse that NYSNA’s newly-elected leadership saw a catalyst for positive social change in Sandy’s wreckage. “Sandy was an opportunity for NYSNA to connect its work to democratize the union to its work in the community — and then to connect all that work to the fight for climate justice,” Jaffe related.
Jaffe underscores the tremendous value of NYSNA’s public health approach to the issue. “The climate movement has trouble seeing these fights as fights for people, not just polar bears,” she said. “The fact is, when the actual storm comes, people are going to die — and it’s not going to be a level playing field in terms of who is going to die and who is going to suffer.
Over 1,000 patients rescued
The storm hit the Rockaway Peninsula and wiped out the homes of the rich and poor alike, but poor people are the ones who were stuck on the 18th floor of a public housing high-rise with no power. And they were the ones that nurses and volunteers were climbing those stairs to help.”
Jaffe stresses the critical role of public hospitals in a crisis and the need to keep our public healthcare system strong: “This is why we need public hospitals. In the Rockaways, where you don’t have one, you have to build your own medical clinic and staff it with volunteers who also have jobs, so you have nurses who are working long shifts at a hospital and then schlepping down to volunteer, where there should be an adequately staffed public hospital in the neighborhood.” The success of Bellevue and Coney Island’s rescue efforts during the storm proved Jaffe’s point. Over 1,000 patients were rescued between these two public hospitals which were fully prepared. Patients lives were saved. “The failures of the Red Cross after Sandy show us that there is no substitute for a public sector, no matter how amazing the volunteer effort may be,” writes Jaffe.