Westchester and Bronx Nurses say safe staffing standard needed for safe, equitable healthcare

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 17, 2021
Contact: Kristi Barnes | kristi.barnes@nysna.org | 646-853-4489  
Carl Ginsburg | carl.ginsburg@nysna.org | 917-405-1060

Nurses and Patient Advocates Report on COVID Conditions in Region’s Hospitals and Nursing Homes, React to Recent AG Report on COVID Deaths

New Rochelle — Montefiore New Rochelle nurses were a common site outside the hospital last December, when they went on strike to have a voice in patient safety and to make safe staffing improvements in their contract.

More than two months later, nurses were once again joined by community and elected leaders to speak out about the effect of understaffing on patient safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am exhausted, but I keep on fighting because I want to make sure the next generation of nurses is better off. I look for creative solutions when we’re understaffed, so that one person doesn’t get overwhelmed and burned out,” said Marcia Hayles, RN, a veteran nurse at Montefiore New Rochelle Schaeffer Long-Term Care facility. “And I keep demanding that Montefiore deliver the resources and safe staffing to make sure every patient receives high quality care.”

In the long-term care units, the number of patients has decreased since the height of the second COVID surge, but some units continue to be short-staffed, especially when nurses become sick. Despite sounding the alarm on understaffing at New Rochelle, Montefiore refuses to improve staffing. In the Emergency Department, nurses say that staffing has never been worse.

Liya Robin, RN, from St. John’s Riverside Hospital explained how the chronic understaffing of nurses and ancillary staff on her Medical-Surgical Ventilator unit, and throughout the hospital, puts patients at risk, and called for greater accountability in New York’s healthcare system: “Our political leaders need to listen to the frontline healthcare workers! We see firsthand how unsafe staffing can result in preventable harm and death. Our whole country is still crying. There’s a mourning family in every half-mile in America, and the response from the wealthiest, most developed country in the world has been shameful!”

Nurses from Montefiore in the Bronx also relayed stories of hospital administration understaffing and cutting corners, despite receiving financial help from the federal government to better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several patient advocates, including Assemblymember Karines Reyes, Assemblymember Amanda Septimo, Assemblymember Chris Burdick, Westchester County Legislator David Tubiolo, Westchester County Legislator Terry Clements, and speakers from SEIU Doctors Council, Commission on the Public's Health System (CPHS), Physicians for a National Health Program, New Rochelle Alliance for Justice, and Indivisible New Rochelle, called for an independent investigation into COVID deaths in hospitals, along with the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, currently moving through the state legislature.

“Economists and researchers point to the overwhelming evidence that staffing levels are a key factor in high quality patient care and safety and can reduce costs for patients, providers and payers,” said Dr. Elizabeth Rosenthal, MD, Physicians for a National Health Program - NY Metro Board Member.

NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, concluded the program: “The New York State Attorney General’s recent report on nursing home deaths is just the latest piece of evidence that safe staffing saves lives and improves health outcomes. The AG report recommended minimum staffing standards in nursing homes, and the same should apply in hospitals. This is about equity and delivering the healthcare every New Yorker deserves. We need safe, equitable standards for ALL patients throughout the state—there’s never been a more pressing time.”

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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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