FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2023
Contact: Kristi Barnes | firstname.lastname@example.org | 646-853-4489
Two Victories for Safe Staffing for New York State’s Patients
With Hospital Staffing Reports Due July 1, NYS Dept. of Health Clarifies All Patient Care Units Need Safe Staffing Standards
Dept. of Health to Adopt 1:2 Nurse-to-Patient Ratio in Intensive Care Units Today
NYSNA Nurses Say Safe Staffing is Solution to Nurse Understaffing Crisis, Release New Survey About Hospital Non-Compliance
Albany, NY—A law passed in 2021 to improve patient safety by creating safe staffing standards in New York’s hospitals is making advances in its implementation.
Earlier this month, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) sent a letter to all hospital CEOs reminding them that their staffing plans are due on July 1. The letter clarified that plans must be submitted for all inpatient units and gave an extended deadline of Aug. 15 to submit plans for all other units including outpatient.
Since the hospital staffing committees law passed in 2021 and committees were formed in January 2022, NYSNA has pushed back and filed many complaints against hospital employers that tried to exclude certain inpatient and all outpatient units from the safe staffing committee process. The guidance letter from NYSDOH clarifies that the law applies to all inpatient and outpatient hospital units.
This is great news to NYSNA nurses who have been pushing to establish and enforce safe staffing standards in every hospital, on every unit, on every shift. Last July, hospitals submitted the staffing plans negotiated with nurses and frontline caregivers. Several hospitals submitted plans unilaterally to the NYSDOH that differed from what was negotiated in the staffing committees with frontline staff. Many hospitals refused to discuss and failed to include some patient care units in the adopted staffing plan. For example, St. Joseph Medical Center in Yonkers failed to include the following units in their staffing plan: Radiology, Family Health Clinic, Methadone Maintenance, and Positive Directions.
Bernardita Intal, RN, a nurse who works in the PACU unit at St. Joseph Medical Center and participated in all the staffing committee meetings, said: “I’ve been a nurse for a long time and our priority is always patient safety. The committee process was frustrating, but I’m so happy to hear that hospitals will need to submit plans and staffing levels for all patient care units. Patients in every unit deserve safe standards at all times. Most of us will be a patient one day, so having safe standards is so important.”
This NYSDOH “Dear CEO” letter, along with the long-awaited universal 1:2 ICU ratio regulation that will be adopted on Thursday, June 29, will help improve patient safety in all hospitals throughout New York State.
This July, the public will be able to see for the first time what actual staffing levels have been, compared to the submitted plans. For an overview and timeline of the hospital staffing committee process, visit the NYSNA website.
NYSNA nurses will continue to push for greater transparency and to hold hospitals accountable for upholding safe staffing standards. In a recent survey conducted April-May, 2023 on hospital compliance with the law, NYSNA representatives at more than 60 hospitals reported that:
- Only 71% of employers submitted correct plans to NYSDOH.
- Only 63% of hospitals are publicly posting plans in the hospital.
- Only 31% of hospitals are publicly posting plans on the units.
NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN, said: “Safe staffing saves lives, and safe staffing should be the rule—not the exception—in New York’s hospitals. We are encouraged by the NYS DOH’s action on the ICU safe staffing ratio, and by their clear guidance that all patient care units must report safe staffing standards.”
NYSNA nurses have been advocating for safe staffing to improve patient safety and to stem the crisis of understaffing in New York’s hospitals. The hospital industry claims there is a nursing shortage, but there is only a shortage of nurses willing to work in unsafe environments.
Earlier this year, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing reported that there are approximately 4.6 million registered nurses (RNs) with active licenses, yet according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 3.3 million people who are employed as RNs, with 1.8 million employed in hospitals.
This shows that there are RNs with active licenses who are not working in the industry because of working conditions, including unsafe staffing and poor health and safety, and workplace violence protections. When nurses have too many patients to care for safely, patients are at risk and RNs’ licenses are at risk. The so-called “nursing shortage” is created by a hospital industry that refuses to provide the safe working conditions to retain nurses.
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.