LABOR UNIONS APPLAUD PASSAGE OF SAFE STAFFING LEGISLATION BY LEGISLATURE, URGE ACTION BY THE GOVERNOR

NEW YORK--The Communications Workers of America District 1, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the New York State Nurses Association held a joint virtual press conference today applauding the State Senate and Assembly for passing safe staffing legislation that would establish a process for setting and enforcing safe staffing minimum standards at every hospital and nursing home. The coalition called on Governor Cuomo to immediately act and sign these bills into law. Both pieces of legislation are sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, one of which would establish hospital staffing committees composed of front-line healthcare workers who would determine staffing plans that would be enforceable by the Department of Health (A108B/S1168A). The second (A7119/S6346) would establish minimum hours of care for nursing home residents and include penalties for non-compliance. 

Frontline healthcare workers have long advocated for strengthened safe staffing measures, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made this issue more urgent than ever before. The disparities over the past year between hospitals and long term facilities with insufficient staffing that serve predominantly Black and Latinx communities, in comparison to well-resourced healthcare facilities, underscores the critical need for safe staffing throughout the state. A report from New York Attorney General Letitia James on nursing home deaths earlier this year found that mortality rates were directly related to staffing levels.

In nursing homes, numerous studies have shown that quality of care is directly correlated to the hours of care that residents receive, and there is growing evidence that poor staffing levels worsened the severity of the COVID impact.

“This issue of staffing predates COVID-19, but the pandemic shone a spotlight on what we already knew – that healthcare workers were being forced to work short, putting themselves and their patients and residents at risk,” said Nadine Williamson, RN, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU’s Registered Nurses Division. “The legislation being considered today is the result of a concerted effort to ensure that hospital and nursing home care teams are protected as they deliver the life-saving care their patients and residents deserve, and we applaud the legislature for prioritizing the health and safety of our care teams.” 

“The benefits of safe staffing are clear--it means better care and outcomes for all New Yorkers. Frontline healthcare workers have known this for years and have long advocated for these measures. If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it's that our healthcare heroes can't wait anymore for improved staffing levels. This legislation ensures that our hospitals and nursing homes are better equipped to support all patients, regardless of their age, income or background. We thank the State Senate and Assembly for standing with our members, and we urge the Governor to act now,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of CWA District 1. 

“These bills are a major step forward for every patient’s right to safe, quality healthcare,” said NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez.  “We will, of course, continue to advocate for our patients and organize around our goal of transforming our healthcare system into one that guarantees equity in healthcare for all New Yorkers. History has taught us that only legally sanctioned, compulsory standards afford the public a pathway to achieve human rights. Quality healthcare is a human right."

“The safe staffing legislation comes at a time when often we cannot provide the care children need,” said Pediatric ICU nurse Aja Sciortino, RN, of Westchester Medical Center. “ICU care should never allow for more than two patients to one nurse.  A one nurse to two patients standard is essential and must be enforced, and with the state legislature behind us, I have confidence it will be.”

Nina Geiss, specialized nursing technician at Garnet Health Medical Center,  ICU, said, “I have been a nursing assistant on a medical surgical floor, as well as being a CNA in a skilled nursing facility. I, like all unit clerk/CNA/patient care techs, work with RNs hand-in-hand every day. They depend on me to do my best work so  they can do the very best of the parts that only they can do. It comes down to the fact that when we have more staff we have happier and healthier patients.  If this past year has shown us anything, it is that human interaction, especially in a healthcare setting, is so vitally important quality nursing care.

“My co-workers and I are so proud of this law because it recognizes the nursing team as a whole -- this is  a unique recognition of both RN and non-RN nursing staff representing  the full nursing care team.  I will now have the ability to sit across the table with management to discuss how to give all of our patients the very best care that is possible.”

Rudy Sukna, RN, Hebrew Home for the Aged said, “This is historic. The new requirements for minimum hours of care in nursing homes are long overdue. While studies confirm that quality of care is directly correlated to the hours of care that residents receive, and there is growing evidence that poor staffing levels worsened the severity of the COVID impact, as a frontline RN at the bedside I don’t need a study to confirm how important the time we spend with our residents is.”

 

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