May 7, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – The head of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Health said on Friday that a bill mandating safe staffing levels at New York hospitals and nursing facilities will “overwhelmingly” pass if it gets to the floor for a vote this legislative session.
“The big question then is where is the senate,” Assembly Member Richard Gottfried [D-75th District] told LaborPress at Brooklyn Borough Hall this week. “I think that if the governor came out in favor of the bill that would help get it through both houses.”
A large coalition of worker advocates headed by the New York State Nurses Association [NYSNA] is heading to Albany on May 10, to urge state legislators to back the bill known as the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.
On Friday, the coalition — including the Communication Workers of America, Public Employees Federation, Working Families Party and others — rallied in Brooklyn Borough Hall in conjunction with five other rallies held around the state ahead of the May 10, lobby day action and in celebration of National Nurses Week.
The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act has more bipartisan support than ever before, but several key legislators in both the assembly and senate — Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis [R-64th District], State Senator Andrew Lanza [R-24th District], Assembly Member Dov Hikind [D-48th District], State Senator Simcha Felder [D-17th District] and State Senator Martin Golden [R-22nd District] — among them, still need to be convinced.
Right now, there is no law in New York State limiting the number of patients nurses can care for at any given time. Recent studies suggest that the risk of patient death rises dramatically with a nurse’s case load.
NYSNA Treasurer Pat Kane, RN, said that there is, indeed, a crisis in New York Hospitals and nursing facilities. One that an influx of newly-insured residents seeking health care as a result of the Affordable Health Care Act — has only intensified, according to Metro New York Health Care for All Director Mark Hannay.
“At the end of the day, hospitals aren’t held accountable to any standard as far as the staffing goes, and they are free to continue to put patients at risk by assigning nurses more patients than it is really safe for them to care for,” Kane said.
Opponents of the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act argue that hiring more nurses will be too costly. Advocates, however, insist that safe staffing legislation already instituted in California has not only saved lives, but has also saved the Golden State money.
“It makes dollars and sense,” Assembly Member Jo Anne Simone [D-52nd District] said. “It’s just costing us in other [ways] not to provide safe staffing. While it may look to some people that it will cost money — the reality is in the long run it will save money; it will safe lives.”
According to Kane, California hospitals are “actually in better financial shape now, today, than before the law was passed.”
Although some in the Empire State requre further convincing, Assembly Member Gottfried said that the evidence supporting the efficacy of safe staffing legislation “is already in.”
“The hospitals survive — more importantly the patients survive,” the lawmaker said. “Outcomes are better. Nurses have less burnout. Nurses stay in their careers longer. It all makes sense.”
Leslie Sierra, outreach counselor, State Wide Senior Action Council, urged opponents of the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act to imagine having a loved one in the hospital where nurses are stretched too thin.
“Patients and their families are counting on state legislators to pass this law now,” Sierra said. “Not later — but now.”