**MEDIA ADVISORY FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 21 AT 2:30 PM**
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Nurses to Testify at City Council Hospitals Budget Committee Hearing on Understaffing Crisis at NYC Public Hospitals
Nurses are calling for NYC Health+Hospitals/Mayorals to release data on vacancies, turnover and cost of temporary agency nurses to fill staffing gaps
At Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, 20 percent of nursing staff quit in 2022 – many leaving before they made it even a full year on the job – and the city is shelling out an estimated $18.5 to $24.2 million per year on agency nurses
New York, N.Y.— On Tuesday, March 21 at 2:30 p.m., NYSNA nurses from New York City’s public healthcare system will testify at a City Council Hospitals Committee budget hearing on how the understaffing crisis in public hospitals is harming patient care. Low pay and understaffing are driving nurses out of the public sector at an astounding rate, putting care for New York City’s most vulnerable patients at risk.
NYSNA members are demanding that the city live up to its agreement on pay parity with the private sector to stop the bleed of nurses from public hospitals and are calling on H+H/Mayorals to release system-wide data on nurse turnover, vacancies, and the amount the city is spending on temporary agency nurses. If the data from just one facility, Jacobi, is any indication, the city is shelling out potentially hundreds of millions of dollars a year for temporary nurses with little knowledge or commitment to the communities Health+Hospitals serves.
WHAT: Nurses testify at New York City Council Hospitals Committee Budget Hearing
WHERE: City Hall Council Chambers
WHEN: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, March 21, 2023
High turnover is costing the city. Although NYC Health+Hospitals(H+H)/Mayorals hasn’t released comprehensive system-wide data, at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, 183 nurses left in 2022 – at least 20 percent of the total nursing staff. 53 nurses who were hired at Jacobi in 2022 didn’t even stay for a full year. H+H estimated in 2021 that training a new nurse costs approximately $25,000, but some studies put the cost of replacing just one trained nurse at $100,000.
The city is spending an estimated $18.5 - $24.2 million per year on temporary agency nurses just for Jacobi Hospital alone. Over a three-month period ending in January 2023, Jacobi had 146 temporary agency nurses. And as of January 2023, 53 percent of active nurses in critical care areas and 59 percent of active nurses in Med-Surg areas at Jacobi were temporary agency nurses. Those travel nurses make at least 2 to 3 times the salaries of permanent staff nurses. The city spent more on 146 temporary nurses than the total cost of parity for Jacobi nurses with the private sector – which would cost approximately $15 million. The city could close the pay gap and stop the flood of nurses leaving the public sector for LESS than their temp staffing expenses
Kristle Simms, NP at H+H/Jacobi Medical Center and NYSNA Executive Council Member said, “It gives me great pride to be a trusted provider, to educate and guide patients that look like me and my own family. I see patients every day who are nervous, distrustful of the healthcare system, or worried they cannot afford their chemotherapy. It pains me to think that I have to choose between my purposeful career and how to balance my checkbook.”
New York City’s public hospitals and mayoral agencies make up the largest public healthcare system in the country and provide care for 1.4 million New Yorkers each year – regardless of insurance or immigration status, or ability to pay. Nearly 9,000 Heath+Hospitals/Mayorals System nurses are in the midst of union contract negotiations.
Alison Gordon, RN at H+H/Harlem Hospital said, “I work on the Med-Surg floor caring for 11-13 patients at a time on a normal day – the number I can safely care for is 4 or 5 and our union contract forbids more than 6. Our new nurses get a sink-or-swim introduction to our city hospitals and they are quick to leave us for higher pay and lower patient loads. Many don’t even complete orientation before starting a search for jobs with better working conditions.”
NYC’s public sector nurses are mobilizing on the heels of a strike victory for private sector nurses, who won groundbreaking contracts that improved staffing and included 19.9 percent pay increases. With new raises for private sector nurses, the pay disparity for newly graduated nurses in the public sector will be over $19,000 per year. NYC’s public health facilities serve mostly Black and brown and immigrant New Yorkers and are staffed by mostly Black and brown and immigrant nurses. Pay parity is an issue of health and racial equity for New York City.
Shaiina Marston, RN at Correctional Health at Rikers, “Incarcerated patients also deserve quality healthcare. Many of our patients at Rikers have mental health issues. Many feel abandoned in jail. The staffing crisis in New York City has created safety concerns within our city jail system. We have one nurse covering 2 mental health units totaling 50 patients. That's right, 50 patients. This is beyond short staffed and has become a true crisis. Our work is impossible to do in a 12-hour shift, forcing us to stay beyond our shift to complete our work. This stress is not the fault of our patients. We burn out and take this energy home to our families.”
Stacy Reid, RN at H+H/Harlem Hospital said, “We put our lives on the line to save our city. I work in the Emergency Department at Harlem Hospital. During the height of COVID it was like being in a war zone. Even now, the volume of patients is often more than we can safely handle. Patients come in with challenging medical conditions and significant needs. Public hospital nurses are used to doing more with less. But working conditions are so unbearable and the pay disparity so big between the public and private sector, we are hemorrhaging nurses. Most new nurses don’t stay for the long-term and we have too many temporary agency nurses who don’t know our patients or our community.”
According to a member survey, one out of every two H+H nurses have gotten infected with COVID at work. In the early months of the pandemic, the majority of NYSNA members who died of COVID-19 on the frontlines were from the public sector. Although H+H/ Mayorals members represent 35% of NYSNA’s NYC members, they accounted for 53% of the deaths.
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.