Not Enough Nurses to do the job at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center: Understaffing in Critical Care Units poses risk to patient and nurse safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 13, 2021
Contact: Kristi Barnes | kristi.barnes@nysna.org | 646-853-4489

Nearly 200 Official Complaints Filed by More than 750 Nurses About Understaffing at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in the Last Two Years
Long Island Nurses Tell Albany: Pass Safe Staffing Standards Now!

Long Island – The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) announced today that 186 complaints have been filed by nurses to hospital management about understaffing at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in 2019 and 2020. A total of 756 nurse signatures appear on those reports.

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 on a respiratory care unit with high-need COVID patients:

4 RNs- 2 with 9 PTS, 1 with 8 PTS; inc. 4 STEPDOWN patients. Unsafe RN/PT ratio: 8/9 patients!

Another nurse writes regarding a shift on a stepdown/telemetry unit, where evidence-based safety standards recommend a ratio of 1 nurse to 3 patients:

Forty-six pts – 5 RN. RN:PT ratio 1:9/10. Unable to provide safe care.

Tammy Miller, RN, the local union president at St. Catherine and a veteran ICU nurse said: “We are often understaffed in the ICU, and we still have many high-need COVID patients. Understaffing makes it nearly impossible to provide safe and timely care, and it increases the risk of medication and other errors. It’s not fair to the patients or to the nurses.  If we had adequate staffing throughout the pandemic, nurses would not have had prolonged exposure to a deadly virus, and fewer nurses would have fallen ill—including myself. Caring for patients shouldn’t turn nurses into patients!”

“Nurses had an incredibly tough year, and we are still stressed because we’re overstretched and understaffed,” said Lorraine Incarnato, an ICU nurse for 43 years. “We have fewer COVID patients now than during the height of the pandemic, but our patients are still very sick and require more attention because they’re often awake, alone, frightened, and prone to injury.  Too often, especially on night shift, we have one nurse trying to care for three patients, instead of one or two. Patients deserve safe staffing, because if a nurse can’t spend enough time with a patient, she may not see signs of deterioration and be able to prevent a patient from crashing. Without the nurse at the bedside closely observing patients, doctors really won’t know what’s happening—and whether a treatment or diagnosis is effective. Patients in the ICU are facing live altering or life taking illness—and they should not have to face it alone.”

These nurse reports about working conditions are coming in every day from across Long Island and the state. Using recent 2021 reports into the NYSNA text reporting system, nurses in the St. Catherine’s Cardiac Care Unit, a critical care unit, texted in staffing reports 71 times this year, and 27 times reported unsafe staffing, where the nurses had more than two patients at a time. At Catholic Health Systems’ St. Charles Hospital, ICU nurses report unsafe staffing, where one nurse cares for more than 2 patients at a time, on 22 out 39 reported shifts—more than 56% of the time.

The COVID pandemic underscores that safe staffing saves lives in hospitals and nursing homes. A recent report by Attorney General Letitia James connected 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 http://www.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.