United for safe staffing

As a follow-up to NYSNA’s April 21 Lobby Day, members returned to Albany on May 12, this time joined by members from PEF, CWA, NYSUT, and the New York State Wide Senior Action Network — all wearing turquoise and delivering a single message: there’s a staffing crisis in New York’s healthcare facilities that can only be adequately addressed through the adoption of evidence-based nurse to patient staffing ratios. Together, we urged legislators to support and pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.

The common theme, regardless of workplace, region, or organization, was the same: patients are at risk when there are not enough nurses. NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez asked: “Aren’t we getting tired of repeating and reporting what we already know? Staffing ratios are essential to the safety and well-being of our patients.” Adequate nurse staffing is the first line of patient defense. Howard Sandau, RN and NYSUT member, told legislators: “Patients aren’t getting a discount when they don’t have a nurse. In fact, they are getting a very real possibility of a terrible outcome.” Study after study has shown that unsafe staffing levels lead to higher incidence of mortality, infection and readmission.

Safe staffing makes sense

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried urged a fundamental shift in how hospital managers view their nursing staff. “If there were not enough heat in the hospital, administrators would not choose to give some patients heat, while others go without…and yet some patients do not get proper staffing. And it seems to me that’s kind of basic,” he said.

“Access to safe care is not only an economic issue, but more importantly, a moral one,” said Anne Bové, RN at Bellevue Hospital Center, NYSNA Board Member and President of the HHC-Mayorals Executive Committee. The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act is common sense legislation that will save lives and allow New Yorkers to hold hospitals accountable for the care they provide.

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