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CWA D1 Submits Thousands of Safe Staffing Violations Across New York State Hospitals to the DOH

For Immediate Release: November 30, 2023
Media Contact: CWANY@berlinrosen.com or Zoe PiSierra, zoe.pisierra@berlinrosen.com, 1.603.339.0042

Violations Demonstrate Statewide Short Staffing at Hospitals, Exacerbating Healthcare Workforce Crisis and Threatening Patient Care

Union Calls on NYS to Enforce 2021 Clinical Staffing Committee Law, Fully Fund Healthcare Facilities in FY25 State Budget

NEW YORK – In an effort to address New York’s statewide healthcare crisis that is threatening worker safety and quality of care for patients, Communications Workers of America District 1 (CWA D1) has reported thousands of violations of hospitals’ clinical staffing plans to the New York Department of Health (DOH). 

The clinical staffing plans were negotiated by the hospitals’ staffing committees, made up of 50% frontline healthcare workers and 50% management, required by the 2021 Clinical Staffing Committee law. The plans, which are essential to ensuring safe staffing levels and quality patient care across all New York hospitals, went into effect beginning in January 2023. Today’s submission includes nearly 8,000 unresolved staffing complaints from this year alone. 

Violations reported to the DOH include:

  • Nurses working under 1:3 nurse-to-patient ratios in the ICU departments, when the ratio required by the law and necessary for adequate care is 1:2 for critical and intensive care patients. 
  • Entire patient care units being left without any Care Attendants because they were floated to other shortages in the hospital, leaving patients without being changed, cleaned or provided their medication.
  • Management consistently mandated staff to work beyond their scheduled hours on a regular basis. 

New York is facing a healthcare workforce crisis. Frontline healthcare workers are being forced to care for too many patients at one time at the expense of patient safety. This is a root cause of widespread recruitment and retention challenges and staffing shortages. At the same time, decades of underfunding and the devastation of COVID-19 have left many hospitals with negative or unsustainable operating budgets, incentivizing the further reduction of healthcare workers, exacerbating short staffing, worsening quality of care and further destabilizing the workforce. 

In New York state, only 53% of actively licensed nurses are actively working as nurses, demonstrating that the State is facing more of a shortage of good healthcare jobs than healthcare workers themselves. 

“CWA District 1 strongly supported the passage of the 2021 Clinical Staffing Committee law and has since worked day and night to ensure we’re implementing this law to the fullest extent because safe staffing is critical to ensuring quality patient care. However, despite the best efforts of our committee members to address violations of the law, when Hospitals fail to staff according to agreed upon plans, and put patients’ lives on the line, we have no choice but to get the State involved,” said CWA Local 1168 President Cori Gambini, based in Buffalo. “Patients and healthcare workers deserve robust enforcement by the DOH and NYS to ensure improved staffing in healthcare facilities. This is about saving lives and taking steps to stabilize the healthcare workforce which is in urgent crisis.”

While NYS’s healthcare system remains in shambles, the sole burden is being placed on healthcare workers, who are working mandatory overtime and past the point of exhaustion. Workers are sounding the alarm on ongoing safe staffing violations, filing thousands of complaints, tracking their own staffing data to hold hospitals accountable, and even going on strike. 

New York is seeing this crisis play out across the State. Healthcare workers with the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) are using their contract enforcement process to enforce safe staffing standards. NYSNA nurses have won several arbitration awards because of staffing violations, including a $220K award from Mount Sinai and most recently an award from Montefiore Health System, proving that staffing is still a crisis all over the state, for every healthcare union, and that urgent action by the State is needed now. 

“Patient safety is the top priority of nurses everywhere. In New York, nurses have been speaking out, filing complaints, enforcing staffing ratios in their union contracts, and going on strike to ensure safe staffing,” said NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN. “We can’t continue to be the only line of defense for patients. Nurses need the DOH to fully implement and enforce the law to improve safety and quality care for all of New York’s patients.”

In addition to calling for the proper and robust implementation and enforcement of the 2021 Clinical Staffing Committee law, CWA D1 is urging New York State to fully fund healthcare facilities in the FY25 State Budget and include proposals aimed at stabilizing the existing healthcare workforce. 

New York health care workers play a vital role in taking care of the state’s sick and vulnerable. Research shows that understaffing is heavily linked to poor patient outcomes. Further, as healthcare workers are leaving the field in droves worsening the shortage, requiring staffing improvements will not only ensure these essential workers have the support they need to care for their patients and do their jobs, but also help to stabilize the workforce.

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CWA District 1 represents 145,000 workers in 200 CWA local unions in New York, New Jersey, New England, and eastern Canada. CWA members work in telecommunications, health care, higher education, manufacturing, broadcast and cable television, commercial printing and newspapers, state, local, and country government.

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