BEFORE THE NYS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
When on September 20 NYSNA nurses testified in Albany before the New York State Department of Health (DOH) it was unprecedented: nurses giving formal testimony on safe staffing for nurses and caregivers in hospitals and nursing homes. The testimony is central to the DOH's study on staffing enhancements mandated in the 2019-2020 New York State Budget, taking safe staffing a giant step forward. NYSNA is not alone in bringing essential information to the DOH. Other unions participating in September with testimony of their own: CWA – District 1, Public Employees Federation, 1199SEIU (Nursing Home Panel), and 1199SEIU (Hospital Panel).
It’s been a tremendous effort on many fronts, in coalition with community organizations, public health groups and other unions—who share a mission to protect patients.
SAFE STAFFING NEEDS TO BE STATEWIDE
The public meeting was unprecedented as NYSNA nurses gave testimony about safe staffing levels. Dr. David Curry, an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh and Professor Emeritus of Nursing at SUNY Plattsburgh with doctorate in Health Administration, shared his views. “I look forward to this staffing study being designed fairly and modeled to address the benefits safe staffing could bring to our hospitals through improved patient outcomes. The study must also address the serious workforce issues we face now and in the future,” he said.
“As a nurse in a rural setting, I know how important healthcare is to my area, not just for my community’s health, but my community’s economy as well…. We’ve seen full service hospitals in rural areas close, or be converted into freestanding emergency departments that do not fully service the community’s needs,” said Curry.
“That is why we need to think of safe staffing as an investment for our community, both for improved patient care and patient outcomes and our community’s local economy. By accessing grants to expand RN training opportunities in critical areas of rural New York, we can train and deploy the next generation of nurses and healthcare workers that will be hired to meet the real staffing needs across the state. I hope this study will be designed to reflect these elements of nursing and the healthcare workforce in rural New York,” he concluded.
Ari Moma, NP, of Interfaith Medical Center, also testified. “My hospital is one of three hospitals …is an important part of the DOH and the governor’s efforts to strengthen and transform access to quality care in Central Brooklyn. I believe that the governor’s efforts to transform healthcare in my hospital’s service area is a crucial first step to improving health outcomes for my patients and ensure that access to lifesaving medical care is available and affordable,” he said. “I believe that this study is an important first step towards understanding the staffing needs across the state.”
NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, stated in her remarks: “We—and our patients—are grateful that the Department of Health is working diligently to fulfill its charge to develop regulations that will seriously enhance safer staffing ratios in our facilities…. Our union has successfully negotiated improved staffing ratios in many facilities, resulting in better outcomes and, ultimately, cost savings as well. Why is that?
“Hospitals with consistently appropriate staffing have far fewer cases of RN burn-out, demoralization, abandonment of the institution—and even, the profession. Such facilities are able to retain experienced nurses, and see greatly enhanced patient satisfaction and successes.”
THE RIGHT THING TO DO
There is no way our fight for safe staffing could have come this far if it were not for the tireless efforts of countless nurses speaking out with determination and in a united voice: “Safe staffing saves lives!”