Nurses Week: What’s at stake?

As I write this column, our priority bill, the “Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act” (S.782/A.8580-A) – the bill that will set a maximum number of patients a nurse can care for at any one time – is being hotly debated and seriously scrutinized by key legislators. Why is that?

This year, our comprehensive campaign for passage has intensified:

  • involving members through Staffing Captain and POA initiatives, phone calls, legislative visits, community speak-outs, regional teach-ins, conferences, lobby days and high level meetings with elected leaders;
  • utilizing a sophisticated, targeted, effective media campaign to educate the public and point the spotlight on politicians;
  • focusing on municipal, county and regional bodies to pass initiatives that place significant pressure on reluctant state officials; and
  • building a coalition of community and labor groups that challenge resistant legislators.

What better gift for us than to have enough nurses to care for our patients?

We have more sponsors and supporters than ever before; we are more visible and powerful in the State Legislature and in local structures than in the past. Nurses are eloquently expressing their views on the deleterious effects of short staffing, putting people on high alert.

And the public is listening.

Who is blocking us?

The Hospital Association of New York State (HANYS), and a variety of fraternal organizations and sympathizers, particularly among big hospital chains, are spending big piles on lobbying efforts to defeat our bill. Their arguments are flawed but their pockets are deep. Our strength is in our numbers and in the logic of the initiative.

Why do our successful health systems plead poverty when it comes to increasing caregiver staff, even while they show net profits?

Why are some of our facilities claiming that they are losing money?

Where is the money going?

  • Our hospitals are spending hundreds of millions – even billions – of dollars on super-expensive non-user friendly Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems, giving us even less time to spend with our patients.
  • They pay exorbitant consultant fees to organizations with no actual direct healthcare experience that are restructuring the workforce to achieve “efficiencies” at the expense of patients.
  • They have elevated their marketing and advertising expenses into the stratosphere.
  • They have geometrically increased their well-paid administrative staff to better “manage” the hands on caregivers on whom our patients depend.
  • They pay exorbitant executive salaries to too many administrators who do not deliver hands-on care to patients and are removed from the reality of patients’ acute conditions.
  • They pay outrageous executive salaries and perks to attract and keep “talent” in the organization.
  • Non-union employers hire expensive lawyers and firms to crush union organizing drives and waste public resources meant for direct care of patients.
  • They pay millions to professional lobbyists to defeat our legislative initiatives.

Safe staffing is our highest priority – the foundation of safe, quality care for all patients.

NYSNA members and nursing students flooded the State Capitol on our April 13 Lobby Day.

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