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Victory! NY Nurses Win Minimum Staffing Ratios

April 11, 2019

By Steve Wishnia

NEW YORK, N.Y.—In a deal one union official called “historic,” the New York State Nurses Association announced a tentative contract agreement April 9 with three leading hospital systems that will set minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.

Nurses rally outside Maimonides Medical Ctr.
After a long fight, nurses in New York have won safe staffing rules aimed at providing better care for all.

If ratified, the four-year contract with the Mount Sinai, Montefiore, and New York Presbyterian hospital systems will lead to the hiring of more than 1,450 nurses, including filling about 800 vacant positions. The actual nurse-to-patient ratios would be negotiated after ratification, “based on safe staffing ratios that will be included in the collective bargaining agreements and enforced by an independent neutral party,” the union said.

 “We now have a voice in the process and a real say and a real mechanism in which to challenge patterns of staffing shortages and to get those rectified,” NYSNA first vice president Anthony Ciampa said in a statement.

NYSNA spokesperson Carl Ginsburg told LaborPress he wasn’t sure when the vote on ratification would be scheduled.

The proposed contract would also raise salaries by 3% a year, retroactive to the previous agreement’s expiration last Dec. 31. The union said it would also increase tuition reimbursement and retiree health benefits, include new guidelines to stop workplace violence, and establish a process to improve safe patient handling.

Staffing has long been a concern of the more than 10,000 nurses NYSNA represents at New York-Presbyterian, Mount Sinai, and Montefiore. In December 2016, the union held a bake sale outside Montefiore’s main hospital in the north Bronx to dramatize its demand for hiring more nurses. With some 200 vacancies on its staff, “we are working short-staffed every single day,” head pediatric nurse Patricia Veintemilla told LaborPress at the time. In the intensive-care unit, said Michelle Gonzalez, there’s supposed to be a ratio of one nurse for every two patients, but “we’re chronically seeing one-to-three for critically ill patients.”

With the hospital chains resisting setting ratios on the grounds of “flexibility,” NYSNA members voted almost unanimously in early March to authorize a strike. It later set an April 2 strike deadline, but postponed it after the New York City Hospital Alliance, the trade group representing the three hospital chains, indicated it was prepared to make concessions.

The union will now turn its attention to what Ginsburg calls a “parallel effort” lobbying for the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, a bill that would “make minimum nurse-to-patient ratios a matter of New York State law.” It would set the maximum number of patients per nurse at one in operating rooms, trauma-emergency facilities, and for women giving birth; at two in intensive-care units; at three in emergency rooms and newborn-baby nurseries; and at four in regular medical-surgical wards and acute-care psychiatric units. 

The bill, introduced in every legislative session since 2013, was passed by the Assembly in 2016, but did not get a committee hearing in the state Senate. It also failed to make it out of committee in either house in the 2017-18 session. 

This year, it has been stuck in committee since January, but that may change now that the state budget, due April 1, has been passed. The Senate version (S1032), sponsored by Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), has 24 cosponsors. The Assembly version (A2954), sponsored by former nurse Aileen M. Gunther (D-Sullivan), has 72 cosponsors and 28 multisponsors.

Other unions backing the measure include the New York State AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America District 1, the Public Employees Federation, New York State United Teachers, and 1199SEIU.

April 11, 2019

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Victory! NY Nurses Win Minimum Staffing Ratios”

  1. Malgorzata B. says:

    I am an ICU nurse in NYC and I have to tell you that I hope they fail in getting this law passed. The nurses that I work with are despicable human beings who do not really care about patients at all. The union reps could also care less, they just fight over any and every thing, right, wrong, or indifferent. Even when nurses clearly act negligently and it results in the death of a patient, the union is right there fighting for the nurse. None of this is really about patient staffing. I know because I see the type of people that nurses are and what they stand for. No matter what the assignment is, they complain. There’s even a steady few who if you assign them ONE patient alone, they fill out a POA! I mean how pathetic are we? It’s no wonder the doctors say what they say about us. They complain about any and every single thing, it’s disgusting and a shame and the union reps are disgusting and shameful as well. They love to make it about “safe staffing” and in reality it’s all about them wanting to get paid to do the bare minimum. I thought this was my dream job, boy was I wrong!

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