ALBANY, N.Y., April 21, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 1,000 registered nurses (RNs), caregivers and nursing students from Buffalo to Brooklyn rallied at the State Capitol today to lobby legislators to support the growing healthcare needs of patients in New York, including addressing the current staffing crisis facing hospitals. RNs from across the state have been advocating for safe staffing levels, knowing that these new regulations will save lives and that the research is on their side. Clinical and academic studies have consistently shown that safe staffing improves patient outcomes and even saves money. "Right now, in our state, nurses in some facilities are being forced to care for 10, 15, even 20 patients at once. That's dangerous! Lives are placed in jeopardy when there are not enough nurses at the bedside," said New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, a registered nurse at Montefiore Medical Center. "That's why we're fighting for safe staffing ratios in all of our hospitals. We have no choice—our patients' lives depend on it!"
NYSNA nurses are strongly supporting the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, a bill that would set safe minimum nurse staffing levels in all New York hospitals. This legislation has been supported by NYSNA and other labor, community and patient advocate groups, however multi-million dollar lobby groups such as the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) and the Health Association of New York State (HANYS) have strongly opposed it. "Putting lives at risk by forcing nurses to take care of additional patients to increase the bottom line is not appropriate," said Julisa Saud, an RN at Elmhurst Hospital in New York City. "Standards of care are needed, and that's why I support the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. It is legislation that will save lives and allow New Yorkers to hold hospitals accountable for the care they provide."
Today's action comes on the heels of thousands of NYC and Westchester County nurses and caregivers joining together for a historic informational picketed outside of 17 area hospitals bringing attention to the staffing crisis. "The staffing problem in our hospitals has gotten worse lately," said Kathy Santoiemma, an RN who works at Montefiore Medical Center's New Rochelle Hospital. "The hospital practice of understaffing is almost a daily problem for us and it must be addressed."
Nurses made lobby visits to lawmakers to underscore the need for supports to end healthcare disparities through single payer legislation and to keep regulations in place that protect patients and communities. NYSNA calls for the immediate passage of the New York Health Act, which would create a statewide universal healthcare program. It would provide comprehensive health coverage for all New Yorkers with full choices of doctors and other providers. The program would be publicly funded based on ability to pay and would eliminate the "local share" of Medicaid, saving local governments billions of dollars. "There's a public health crisis rooted in the costs of insurance. That's why state lawmakers need to pass New York Health, for the sake of our patients, their families and communities across the state," said Marva Wade, a RN at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and a member of NYSNA's Board of Directors. "Because of the rising cost of health insurance and rising copayments and deductibles, growing numbers of New Yorkers are prevented from receiving needed health care. We must put in place a healthcare system that gives priority to patient need."
Since 2004, several states have pursued legislation addressing safe-staffing concerns in nursing. As of last December, many states have either enacted legislation or adopted regulations addressing nurse staffing ratios. Seven states have required hospitals to have staffing committees responsible for plans and staffing policy (CT, IL, NV, OH, OR, TX, WA). However, California is the only state that stipulates that a required minimum nurse-to-patient ratio to be maintained at all times by unit. "Our patients deserve a nurse at their bedside to care to their healthcare needs, and right now… there just aren't enough nurses to provide the care that they so desperately need," said Michael Healy, a 13-year critical care ICU RN at St. Charles Hospital on Long Island. "New York State needs a safe staffing law that will ensure that all hospitals – from Buffalo to Brooklyn – have safe nurse-to-patient ratios that not only will protect us, but will protect our patients."
While some critics of safer staffing ratios claim that mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios burden hospitals with higher operational costs, research shows that safe staffing is, actually, more cost-effective. Safe staffing improves nurse performance and patient-mortality rates, reduces turnover rates, staffing costs and liability. "In study after study, unsafe staffing levels lead to worse health outcomes, including shock, cardiac arrest, and hospital-acquired pneumonia," said Martha Wilcox, an RN at Sullivan County Public Health. "We know that a safe and reliable healthcare system of the future cannot be created unless we empower our frontline providers of care, and give them what they need to get the job done. We need hospital management to take safe staffing seriously."
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 37,000 members in New York State. We are New York's largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit our website at www.nysna.org.
SOURCE New York State Nurses Association