**MEDIA ADVISORY FOR TODAY, MARCH 16**: On the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown of NYC - Nurses demand Albany lawmakers pass safe staffing law to protect patients across New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 16, 2021
Contact: Kristi Barnes | kristi.barnes@nysna.org | 646.853.4489

Thousands Could Have Been Saved with Safe Staffing

Nurses: ‘No More Excuses’ for Being Understaffed and Underprepared

New York - Nurses at NY Presbyterian and Mount Sinai in Manhattan are demanding that Albany lawmakers pass Safe Staffing on what is the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown in NYC. The nurses are commemorating the struggle and heroism of frontline workers and patients and emphasizing the COVID response that still must be prioritized one year later. One year ago, hospital systems everywhere were underprepared and overwhelmed. Now, there should be no excuse for the lack of protocols and frontline staffing to safely care for all patients.

NY Presbyterian has recently added bed capacity in Critical Care Units, Step down, and Med Surg units not only because of increases in COVID patients, but also to be able to continue lucrative elective procedures. Instead of increasing RN staffing accordingly, they have frozen hiring on inpatient units that desperately need the nurse and ancillary staff support. The hospital lost more than 200 full-time and part-time nurse positions due to the hiring freeze at a time when COVID patients are coming in much sicker than before.

At Mount Sinai’s main campus and Sinai West, nurses are reporting chronic short staffing and short supplies, with managers still rationing PPE. In 2019 and 2020, 7,187 nurses signed onto 2,552 official Protests of Assignment complaints about unsafe patient loads. There was a nearly 1,00% increase in complaints from 2019 to 2020.

Nurses in Manhattan will be joined virtually by nurses, patient advocates, and allies around the state in speaking out for safe staffing using the hashtag #SafeStaffingSavesLives. They will call attention to understaffing as a systemic problem in New York’s hospitals and nursing homes, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color. Advocates will also be generating hundreds of phone calls to state legislators in support of the Safe Staffing bill currently gaining momentum in the legislature.

A recent report by Attorney General Letitia James connects safe staffing and positive patient outcomes. The central finding and core recommendation of the AG’s report are that poor staffing was a major factor in the high death toll in nursing homes, and that New York must enact enforceable, minimum staffing standards, or hours of care per resident.

Another major new study on safe nurse staffing released by researchers at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania found evidence that 4,370 lives could have been saved over a two-year period if New York had safe staffing ratios in Medical-Surgical hospital units. The report also concludes that safe staffing would translate into cost savings for hospitals by reducing hospital stays.

WHAT: COVID One Year Commemoration and Speak Out for Safe Staffing

WHO: NYSNA nurses from NY Presbyterian and Mount Sinai, elected, labor, and community allies, including State Senator Brian Benjamin, State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Senator Robert Jackson, Assembly Member Carmen de la Rosa, Assembly Member Al Taylor, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Mark Levine, City Council Member Carlina Rivera, City Council Member Ben Kallos, Center for Popular Democracy, CPHS, ALIGN, Doctors Council, Metro NY Health Care for All, and more.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 16

  • 8:30 AM at NY Presbyterian, 177 Fort Washington Ave (between 165th and 168th Streets)
  • 11:00 AM at Mount Sinai, 100th St. and Madison Ave (across from main entrance)

State Senator Brian Benjamin said, "After a year of our frontline nurses and healthcare workers risking their lives to battle the pandemic, it is imperative that lawmakers pass Safe Staffing legislation. These heroes have worked tirelessly and selflessly to save lives, and they deserve better protections in their workplace. I am proud to support this legislation and the work of the New York State Nurses Association."

"New York's nurses spent a year on the front lines battling COVID-19 at great personal risk to themselves and their families. Day after day, we celebrated their sacrifice by banging pots and pans out our windows, but we can honor hardworking nurses and protect patients by mandating safe staffing levels. Even with a light at the end of the tunnel, COVID and its variants continue to wreak havoc on our medical system. We are seeing the consequences of inadequate staffing play out in our nursing homes, and it is vital that hospitals are adequately staffed to meet the need. As my colleagues and I have been saying for years, safe staffing will save lives. I will continue to work to see safe staffing become law," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan).

"It is unacceptable and dangerous that our nurses are caring for more patients than they can manage. We must protect our nurses so they can continue providing care for New Yorkers. I stand with the nurses of NY Presbyterian and Mount Sinai in calling for the passage of the Safe Staffing Law," said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“I am proud to stand with NYSNA and all of our nurses in demanding there be safe staffing ratios implemented across our city and state,” said City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine. “As we pass the one-year anniversary of our battle against Covid-19, it is abundantly clear that nurses are essential to maintaining the wellbeing of New York.  We must ensure their safety and patients’ safety. I am a proud co-sponsor on City Council Resolution 396, which calls upon the New York State Legislature to pass - and the Governor to sign - legislation requiring the New York State Department of Health to establish safe staffing ratios to ensure all acute care facilities and nursing homes meet minimum safe staffing standards for nurses and all direct care staff. Today we are speaking out that Safe Staffing saves lives and we must take action now to pass safe staffing standards in New York.”

“Every patient deserves quality care, and no one should have to wait for days in the Emergency Room for a hospital bed or spend their hospital stay in a hallway,” said Jennie Hubert, RN, a nurse at Mount Sinai Morningside. “Nurses are asking for support from the community and our elected officials to create safe staffing standards in all New York’s hospitals, so there are enough nurses and caregivers to ensure that patients receive quality care throughout their stay in the hospital. Creating safe staffing standards will provide patients and their loved ones with the assurance that they will receive the appropriate care that is needed. Health care is a human right and ensuring appropriate care should also be a human right.”

"When COVID hit, nurses were OVERWHELMED. Some got sick, some quit and some retired," said Melissa Balogh, a nurse in NY Presbyterian’s Infectious Disease Medical-Surgical Unit. "We continue to serve a high number of COVID patients and in the midst of all this hospital administrators instituted a hiring freeze, causing us to work with even less staff, ultimately reducing the quality of care our patients deserve."

"Many hospitals’ COVID ICU numbers have gone down, but ours have plateaued at a level that is too high,” said Valerie Burgos, RN, a nurse in Mount Sinai’s COVID ICU. “The physical and mental isolation of working in a COVID ICU is made worse by not having the essential work tools nurses require and have been asking for more than a year—PPE and safe staffing.  It’s just not possible to give patients the attention and quality care they require when you’re chronically short-staffed and stressed, that’s why I’m asking state legislators to support nurses and patients by passing safe staffing.”

“We are commemorating the anniversary of COVID and one year later I am frustrated and angry, said Aretha Morgan, RN, a pediatric emergency department nurse at NY Presbyterian. “While nurses were praised as heroes in the beginning, we’ve been treated like zeros while working on the frontlines because we are constantly under resourced and understaffed. We need real solutions and action. Enough is enough. The solution is safe staffing.”

“In the COVID Cardiac ICU, the hospital expanded the bed capacity from 10 to 14, but they didn’t expand the nurse capacity,” said Judith Anuada-Gumban, RN, of NY Presbyterian Hospital. “Our patients need close monitoring, but sometimes nurses are assigned three patients each, instead of one or two. We have medics helping, but it would help us—and our patients—much more if we had more real nurses who take full patient assignments independently. With safe staffing, we could give the safe quality care that every patient deserves!”

“As we saw with COVID, when disaster strikes, our hospitals and care facilities become frontline battle grounds. Yet and still, those who provide critical and essential care to our loved ones and communities have long been without basic protections like safe staffing standards. Patients in hospitals and residents at nursing homes cannot receive quality care if nurses are caring for too many people at once. We’re calling on state leaders to pass safe staffing this year.” - Rosemary Rivera, Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York.

Jennifer Flynn Walker said, “The Center for Popular Democracy stands with NYSNA to demand safe staffing for our heroic nurses. They kept us safe during the darkest hour and we need to do the same for them.”

“Given the brutal toll COVID-19 has taken on communities of color, it is absolutely essential that New York pass Safe Staffing to ensure that the chronically under-staffed hospitals and nursing homes serving these communities can provide the level of care that every New Yorker deserves,” said Sonal Jessel, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “Let’s learn from the lessons of this pandemic and take care of the people who have taken care of us.”

“The best way to thank our nurses and health providers is by passing Safe Staffing now, ensuring that healthcare facilities have enough staff to care for their patients. It is inconceivable that after a year of an unprecedented pandemic that continues to devastate our communities, we are not prioritizing the lives of people and workers over profits,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN.

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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.