Nurses say tripledemic of RSV, Flu and COVID-19 threatens to worsen hospital-created RN shortage
New York, NY - On Wednesday, November 30, NYSNA nurses gave harrowing testimony on how short-staffing puts patient care at risk at a City Council oversight hearing on the state of nursing in NYC. Over 100 nurses and allies, joined by City Council Hospitals Committee Chair Mercedes Narcisse and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, packed the steps of City Hall for a press conference ahead of the hearing.
With two-thirds of registered nurses across the country saying they are planning to leave the profession in the next two years, NYSNA nurses are sounding the alarm on the staffing crisis that has left caregivers burnt out and at their breaking point.
NYSNA nurses and allies say NYC can’t afford to wait another minute to address the hospital-created RN staffing crisis, as pediatric units are already overflowing with RSV cases, and the threat of a tripledemic of COVID-19, RSV and flu looms as winter months approach. NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN, and CM Mercedes Narcisse co-authored an OpEd on the short-staffing crisis that ran in the New York Daily News on Tuesday.
NYSNA President and Maimonides nurse Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN, said: “When New York hospital CEOs earn an average of over $1 million a year and top executives gave themselves $73 million in salary hikes and bonuses during the first and deadliest year of the pandemic, we know hospitals can afford to hire and retain enough nurses at the bedside. We’re calling on hospitals to listen to nurses and patients.”
NYSNA nurses from the largest academic medical centers to the smallest safety-net hospitals testified at today’s hearing about working conditions in the city’s hospitals, including the safe staffing and healthcare crisis that is putting patients at risk and driving nurses from the bedside.
NYSNA Director at Large Matt Allen, RN, said, “The Mount Sinai Health System alone now has over 800 nursing vacancies. They have a nationwide ad campaign touting they will “find a way” to cure any disease, but they can’t find a way to hire and retain nurses. They don’t see the bedbound patient who has been waiting 30 minutes for a sip of water because the nurse is caring for 12 other patients. Or the mom struggling to breastfeed her newborn for the first time without any support because the nurse is caring for double the amount of newborns she is supposed to. Or the patient in palliative care crying out in pain because there is no spare hands to make sure he gets his pain meds on time. But we nurses see it, and we want the public to know, too.”
Nurses say that hospitals are not doing enough to keep them at the bedside – from safe staffing ratios to good healthcare benefits to competitive pay. Instead of supporting nurses, many of whom contracted COVID-19 at work while saving lives, hospital trustees of the NYSNA benefit fund are looking to cut healthcare for RNs. When they get sick, nurses often turn to their own hospitals for care. But some NYC hospitals have been jacking up fees for healthcare services, meaning they’re profiting from getting nurses sick, and now they don’t want to pay the bill.
NYSNA member at NewYork-Presbyterian Deborah Ceraulo, RN, said: “I care for a 24-year-old daughter with a chronic illness. Jenny takes 24 medications daily, including several costly injectables. She has multiple doctor visits each week. Her medicines and medical care are literally keeping her alive. I provide my family’s healthcare. The thought that my benefits could be reduced is very stressful. Good benefits are a major factor in nurse retention and NY Presbyterian, where I work, hasn’t done enough to keep nurses at the bedside. Nurses won’t be able to stay healthy or keep our families healthy without quality healthcare.”
“Nurses provide quality care for all New Yorkers with diligence and compassion, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Our frontline health care workers put their lives on the line during the pandemic, and are essential now more than ever as we face a surge in respiratory illnesses affecting our communities. We must ensure that our hospitals are properly staffed with nurses to handle this crisis and provide the care that New Yorkers always deserve. I stand with the New York State Nurses Association and essential workers in their call for a fair contract, safer workplaces, and strong benefits.”
Council Member and Chair of Hospitals Committee Mercedes Narcisse said, “Nurses in New York City carried us through the pandemic and continue to do so. They displayed resilience through the most adverse of circumstances, stayed focused and understood the assignment. Save lives. We must immediately display our appreciation for their immense efforts, and fully address the nurse staffing crisis and retain these healthcare heroes and recruit future heroes. Now is the time to treat all nurses with the respect they deserve and earned.”
"Nurses' working conditions are patients' conditions of care. If nurses are saddled with unsafe patient loads and unfair wages, it is New York patients and their loved ones who will bear the brunt. Enough of this for-profit healthcare system that shortchanges nurses and patients to further enrich the already wealthy: it is time we reprioritized and put people first. I am proud to support NYSNA nurses' demands for safe staffing levels, fair contracts, quality healthcare, and adequate training, and commit to continue standing beside them in the fight for a safer, healthier New York City," said Council Member Tiffany Cabán, District 22.
“The state of nursing in New York City has deteriorated into a state of crisis. When hospitals are understaffed and nurses are underpaid, we lose legacy staff, critical institutional knowledge, and patients,” said Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez. “It is not a coincidence that nursing is a profession that is predominantly women, at almost 90%, and they are expected to do more with less. Nurses deserve fair union contracts, quality healthcare, more staff capacity and most importantly - to be heard and supported.”
“New Yorkers’ access to safe, quality healthcare depends on having enough nurses at bedsides to do the job,” said New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO President Vincent Alvarez. “Forcing our nurses to work understaffed at the same time that our city is facing multiple healthcare challenges puts all of us and our communities at risk. Hospital executives created this problem by failing to hire, train, and retain nurses; they need to now come to the table and settle fair contracts, hire and train more nurses to achieve safe staffing levels, and commit to listening to these frontline professionals when it comes to the health and safety of the patients they serve.”
“New York City’s nurses have been our heroes on the frontline as we’ve battled public health crisis after public health crisis these past few years. While they’ve literally kept our neighbors alive, hospital executives paid themselves $73 million in bonuses in 2020 while nurses were told to make do with less. It’s time for safe staffing and a fair contract,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif. “I’m proud to stand with our New York City heroes to demand a fair union contract that guarantees safe staffing standards, good pay, and the best healthcare for our City’s nurses. These are the minimum standards to deliver dignity to the people who have put their lives on the line for our City over the past few years. It’s the right thing to do and I’ll be pushing with nurses and allied elected officials to make sure it happens.”
"Addressing the working conditions of frontline caregivers is an urgent matter of public health. Throughout NYC, nurses and physicians are leaving the medical field at unprecedented rates due to overwork and burnout, and this is impacting every aspect of healthcare. We are at our breaking point and things must change. CIR Resident physicians are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with NYSNA to demand hospitals invest in healthcare workers and exceptional patient care for our communities,” said Dr. Michael Zingman, National Secretary Treasurer of the Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU.
“NYC is facing a dire understaffing crisis in our healthcare sector with retention and recruitment of nurses at risk due to unfair contracts and unsafe staffing levels. Our hospital and healthcare leadership need to step in now to strengthen the nursing workforce and provide the much-needed support to prevent staffing turnover in hospitals and continue to maintain quality healthcare. It is critical that we support the New York State Nursing Association because we cannot ignore the nurse staffing crisis,” said Council Member Julie Menin.
Approximately 17,000 NYSNA members at twelve hospitals in New York City, including some of the biggest private hospitals such as Montefiore, Mt. Sinai, and NewYork-Presbyterian have contracts expiring on Dec. 31. Hospital executives paid themselves millions in sky-high salaries and bonuses during the pandemic at the same time they hiked hospital prices. Nurses are calling for their bosses to invest in hiring and retaining enough nurses to keep their patients safe.
The New York State Nurses Association represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. NYSNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United, AFL-CIO, the country's largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses, with more than 225,000 members nationwide.
For more information, visit nysna.org.