Healthcare Workers Rally at NYS Capitol for Safe Staffing Ratios, Quality Care

May 24, 2013

More than 1,500 healthcare workers from across New York packed the West Capitol Park in Albany for a rally in support of two bills that address a “patient care crisis” in the state. The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act and the Safe Patient Handling Act would create safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios for acute care facilities, and a statewide safe patient-handling policy.

To advocate for patients with a strong and united voice, 1199SEIU joined with healthcare workers of the New York State Nurses Association, New York State Public Employees Federation, and the Communications Workers of America to form the “New York Healthcare Workers Coalition”.

Speakers at the rally included the chief sponsors of the two bills, Senators Kemp Hannon and George Maziarz, and Assembly members Aileen Gunther Assembly member Richard Gottfried (D, as well as leaders of the four unions.

“Safe nurse staffing reduces avoidable patient injuries and deaths,” said. Gottfried. “Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association determined the odds of patient death increased by seven percent for each additional patient the nurse must care for at one time. The ratios and hours specified in this bill are based on peer-reviewed and evidence-based recommendations, and will ensure that that hospitals and nursing homes operate in a manner that guarantees the public safety and quality health care services."

Gunther, who practiced nursing before being elected to the Assembly, said, “This predominantly female field of nurses and healthcare workers must garner the same respect and clout afforded to police and firefighters, given that all three professions involve safety and health.”

Later, coalition members met with more than 150 Senators and Assembly members, urging the passage of both bills before the legislative session in late June.

Belinda Blank, an RN for the last 35 years at Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, traveled to Albany for the event with her younger co-worker, Kate Sears, a certified surgical technologist who has been at the hospital for 5 years. “I see that patients are coming to the hospital today with more severe and complicated illnesses than ever before,” said Blank. “The population is aging at the same time that the healthcare industry is in flux. We need to pass these laws today, in preparation for the future – the future of our patients and the future of my younger colleagues, like Kate.”


The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act

Requires all acute care facilities to comply with safe minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. The bill would also require all residential healthcare facilities to comply with minimum care hours for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nurse aides. Safe staffing levels will cut healthcare system costs, reduce the occurrence of avoidable patient deaths, decrease incidents of hospital-acquired infections, shorten hospital stays, and decrease readmissions.

The Safe Patient Handling Act

Creates a statewide safe patient handling policy for all healthcare facilities in New York State. Safe patient handling practices reduce injuries for patients and for healthcare workers that result from manual lifting. The bill would require each hospital and nursing home in the state to provide proper equipment and training in the context of a program developed by the facility and tailored to its specific needs. Projected results include: Fewer falls, skin tears, and other injuries to patients, fewer career-ending and debilitating injuries for healthcare workers and cost savings to facilities through reduced workers compensation and patient injury claims and less money spent replacing injured workers.