New York State Nurses Association: During COVID, Putnam Hospital moves ahead with damaging layoffs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 14, 2021
Contact: Kristi Barnes | kristi.barnes@nysna.org | 646-853-4489

Eleven Nurses Affected Including a 30-Year Veteran of the Hospital
Layoffs Come Despite Reports of Understaffing in Units

Carmel — New York State Nurses Association announced today that Putnam Hospital has given official notice that it will follow through with the proposed layoffs of 11 nurses including a 30-year veteran of the hospital. Seven of the NYSNA members had moved out of their specialty areas during the pandemic to save lives during the COVID surge.

“During the COVID surges, surgical services nurses went above and beyond and helped in every way that we could,” said Jeannie Carey, RN. “You can’t imagine how emotional it’s been to be treated like just a number and to see some of my best colleagues targeted for layoffs.”

The layoffs come at a time when Putnam County’s only hospital is regularly understaffed in some units, putting patient safety at risk. It’s also a time when COVID cases throughout New York are holding steady, instead of dropping as hoped as the pace of vaccination had increased.

Using recent 2021 reports into the NYSNA text reporting system, nurses in Putnam’s Intensive Care Unit texted in staffing reports 56 times, and 36 times reported unsafe staffing, where the nurses had more than two patients at a time—nearly 70% of reported times. In a Medical-Surgical unit, where NYSNA’s safe staffing legislation requires 1 nurse care for a maximum of 4 patients at a time, nurses made 54 staffing reports, and indicated unsafe staffing levels with ratios greater than 1 to 4, 45 times—more than 83% of the time.

A recent study on safe nurse staffing released by researchers at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research 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.

Instead of redeploying the laid off nurses to other areas of the hospital that desperately need more staff, or looking for cost savings elsewhere, Putnam Hospital is balancing its budget on the backs of its COVID nurse heroes.

“I’ve always loved coming to work, but the layoffs and the stress of the pandemic have left nurses, including me, physically and mentally taxed,” said Maura Rooney, RN, local bargaining unit Vice President at Putnam Hospital. “We hoped that once the COVID surge was over, our staffing levels would go back to normal, but the administration is still keeping the hospital short-staffed. Nurses want to provide the best quality care possible, but with short staffing and now the layoffs, it has been a challenge.”

Part of the Nuvance Health System, Putnam and Nuvance were awarded millions of federal stimulus dollars to stabilize their operations due to the COVID pandemic. According to the COVID Stimulus Watch database, Putnam received $21.5 million and all Nuvance facilities in New York and Connecticut received a total of $247 million.

Because of lax reporting requirements, it’s impossible to know how that money was spent. In recent months, Putnam management has been replaced with new managers from corporate headquarters in CT. Nuvance has also hired consultants to “improve efficiency,” or seemingly to recommend cuts to hospital staffing and services.

“I understand the hospital is a business, but we still have to take care of patients—and that should be the priority. Rumors are flying about further cuts to healthcare services and to the frontline nursing staff. How can we possibly provide the care our community deserves?” said Carey.

One nurse, who wished to remain anonymous because s/he feared retaliation said, “The worst part of this is that the community has no idea what they’re doing to our only hospital. By the time they find out and are ready to fight for us, we’ll be gone.”

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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. 

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