As personal injury lawyers, we at Brindisi Murad, Brindisi & Pearlman have seen far too many instances of injury and wrongful death as a result of overworked nurses due to hospital understaffing and other efforts by hospitals to save money. New York patients are at risk as hospital administrators are forcing nurses to take on as many as 10 patients or more at once, which is way too many patients for a nurse to be able to provide quality care to. There is a NYS safe staffing bill being supported by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) that would set safe staffing ratios for hospitals across the state. In fact, on April 13, 2016, at NYSNA Lobby Day, New York State Nurses Association RN’s and nursing students across the state will bring their message to Albany to protect the practice of nursing and create an environment for the best possible patient care.
Locally, nurses and supporters rallied outside St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center on March 18th, 2016, contending that the hospital doesn’t have enough nurses, which puts patient safety at risk. They were arguing that higher staffing levels would also provide other benefits such as reducing nurse turnover, lowering staffing costs and decreasing liability. The nurse’s union contract expires on June 30th and they are seeking better terms for a new contract.
Two unions representing nurses, the New York State Nurses Association and the Communication Workers of America, are asking cities and counties across the state to pass resolutions to support the NYS Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. In December, Erie County passed such a resolution and has joined with Ulster County, Schenectady County, Buffalo, Cheektowaga, West Seneca, Hamburg, North Collins, Amherst and Niskayuna according to a Politico New York article dated February 3, 2016.
Minimum Staff Levels
The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act would set safe minimum nurse staffing levels in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities throughout New York State. The bill would establish nurse-to-patient ratios by unit and hospitals that violate the law would face civil penalties.
“The evidence is clear that having enough nurses on staff has a direct impact on the quality of patient care,” Assembly health committee chairman Richard Gottfried said in a press release. “Research published by the American Medical Association estimates 5 additional deaths per 1000 patients in hospitals with an 8-to-1 ratio compared to those with just a 4-to-1 ratio. More nurses per patient mean fewer deaths and improves patient outcomes. It is well documented that hospitals with better staff ratios have lower rates of problems such as pneumonia, shock, and cardiac arrest.”
Hospitals that just look at the bottom line are not seeing the bigger picture. The idea that overextending nurses actually saves money is a myth. The fact is that safe nurse staffing is a cost-effective way to improve patient care that will lead to savings for hospitals and our entire healthcare system. Safe nurse staffing actually reduces turnover, while inadequate nurse staffing levels are associated with high turnover rates and poor patient satisfaction. (Nursing Administration Quarterly, 2011).
Another fear is that mandated staffing ratios could force hospitals to close or cut services, which could compromise access to care. However, as shown clearly when nurse to patient ratios were mandated in California, hospital incomes rose dramatically and there was no evidence to link the implementation of the Safe Staffing Ratios to changes in hospital finances. (California Health Care Foundation).
A Great Need
Research validates the need for the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act in New York State. The nurses, patients and their families are suffering. The amount of cases where there was a loss of life, extended hospital stays or repeated admissions into the hospitals because patients were not properly cared for initially is overwhelming. Our New York State nurses are burdened with long shifts and caring for too many patients at once. Nurses should only be expected to provide quality care to one patient at a time.
Far too long hospital administrators have had all the power over staffing issues. Putting safe minimum staffing levels into law will take some of that power out of their hands. Clearly, the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act can and will save lives.
Urge Lawmakers to Sign Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. Every patient in New York State is at risk and could benefit from this law. Call, e-mail or write your lawmakers to urge them to support Assembly Bill A08580A and Senate Bill S00782 and finally pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act into law. Take action now! You never know whose life you might be saving.
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