Ellis Hospital Nurses: Understaffing in Critical Care Units poses risk to Patient and Nurse Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 8, 2021
Contact: Carl Ginsburg | carl.ginsburg@nysna.org | 917-405-1060
Kristi Barnes | kristi.barnes@nysna.org | 646-853-4489

NOT ENOUGH NURSES TO DO THE JOB AT ELLIS HOSPITAL

UNDERSTAFFING IN CRITICAL CARE UNITS POSES RISK TO PATIENT AND NURSE SAFETY

Nearly 300 Official Complaints Filed by More than 1,000 Nurses about Understaffing at Ellis Hospital in the Last Two Years

Schenectady – The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) announced today that 293 complaints have been filed by nurses to hospital management about understaffing at Ellis Hospital in 2019 and 2020. A total of 1,116 nurse signatures appear on those complaints.

These numbers are included in the 26,219 total reports of understaffing statewide, signed by 97,715 nurses, in the last two years. The reports are called ‘protests of assignment’ (POAs) and are formal complaints given to hospital management.

The large number of POAs is further proof that Albany lawmakers must pass Safe Staffing legislation to ensure that all patients across the state get the care they need and deserve.

The nurse descriptions that accompany the POAs tell a disturbing story of what is really going on inside New York hospitals.

One nurse writes in reference to a specific shift:

“Every nurse in the ICU has a triple assignment and is dealing with complex and critical patients. We have no room for admissions.”

Another nurse writes regarding another unit and shift:

“There are six patients to a nurse in Med-Surge. There are times when there are 0-1 staff on the floor. Three patients have fallen in the last 10 days, and no one was available to help me get my patient back in bed for 10-15 minutes.”

Understaffing in just one or two units of a hospital can have a major impact on the quality of patient care throughout the hospital. When hospitals fail to staff a safe number of nurses and caregivers in one unit, it has a ripple effect. It can create longer wait times for patients, delays in lifesaving care, or the delivery of care in units that are not adequately equipped or staffed with specialty-trained nurses.

“I work in the Operating Room, where I only take care of one patient at a time—in accordance with New York State law,” said Cathy Dawson, RN. “Staffing in the rest of the hospital is very uneven and should also have safety standards, because all the units function together. There’s no way one person can provide quality care to three or four critically ill patients at the same time. When there’s no room in the ICU or on the Medical Surgical floors, patients are sometimes held in units not equipped to deal with them; for example, we recently had five patients on ventilators in the ER. New York must prioritize the safety of the patients and nurses in our hospitals by passing a safe staffing law.”

“Staffing has always been a struggle in the ER, but since Ellis closed some essential services during COVID, including inpatient mental health beds and pediatrics, our patients are holding for hours and sometimes days in the ER,” said Fred Durocher, RN, a 25-year veteran ER nurse at Ellis. “Patients deserve a higher level of care and enough nurses to care for them. Every hospital has its own staffing standards, but they have always an excuse for not meeting them. When companies won’t do the right thing, government should step in. In this case, guaranteed safe staffing will protect New York’s patients and nurses and ensure all hospitals are better prepared for future healthcare crises.”

“We need safe staffing more than ever, especially in the critical care areas, where we’ve seen an exodus of experienced nurses as the COVID pandemic has worn on,” said Denise D’Avella, RN.  “It’s so important to have experienced and well-trained nurses throughout a hospital but especially in critical care, because no one wants to be on the receiving end of learning by trial and error. Hospitals are increasingly being run like a business, and they’ll continue to cut corners on safe staffing unless the public and the legislature demand better.”

These nurse accounts of working conditions are coming in every day from across the state.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores that safe staffing saves lives in hospitals and nursing homes. A recent report by Attorney General Letitia James connects safe staffing with positive patient outcomes: poor staffing was a major factor in the high death toll in nursing homes, the report found. To address this, New York must enact enforceable, minimum staffing standards, or hours of care per resident.

ALBANY: DON'T TURN YOUR BACK ON NEW YORK PATIENTS OR NEW YORK NURSES!

For more information, go to campaignforpatientsafety.org.

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The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit nysna.org.

About NYSNA

We are 42,000 nurses working together to win safe staffing, keep hospitals open for care, stop the Wall Street attack on our patients, and win healthcare for all.