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Coalition of New York Unions and Patient Rights Groups Representing Tens of Thousands of New Yorkers Calls on Albany to Pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act

Legislation Calls for A Maximum Number of Patients A Nurse Can Care for At Any Given Time

The Facts Are Clear: Safe Staffing Saves Lives

ALBANY, NY – A coalition of unions and patient rights groups from across the state representing tens of thousands of New Yorkers announced today in Albany a campaign calling on legislators to pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act (S.782/A.8580-A).

The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act is bi-partisan legislation to establish safe and consistent standards for nursing care in New York State.

The coalition calling for action includes: 

  • New York State AFL-CIO
  • New York State Nurses Association
  • Communication Workers of America, District 1
  • Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare
  • Working Families Party
  • Public Employees Federation
  • Citizen Action of New York
  • Make the Road NY
  • New York Statewide Senior Action Council
  • New York State Alliance for Retired Americans
  • New York Communities for Change
  • Coalition for Economic Justice
  • Metro New York Healthcare for All

The legislation will save lives by ensuring an adequate number of nurses are at the bedside of patients inside New York hospitals. Among other things, this legislation will:

  • Establish safe nurse to patient ratios for nurses in units at all New York hospitals.
  • Require hospitals to staff units using nurses that are trained for care in that unit. For example, nurses in the ER should be trained in ER care.
  • Require hospitals to be more transparent about their staffing levels.
  • Set a maximum number of patients a nurse is responsible for at any given time. 
  • Support for the Safe Staffing Legislation has never been stronger or louder.

In the legislature, there are currently 86 sponsors in the Assembly and 26 sponsors in the Senate.

In a November 2015 poll by the Mellman Group of 1000 New Yorkers, a staggering 85% said they support a maximum number of patients a nurse can care for at one time. 67% of those polled said there are not enough nurses in New York hospitals. 

Municipalities across the state understand how important this law is to patients, and they have been passing resolutions calling on legislators to pass the bill. The number of these municipalities keeps growing but includes:

  • Ulster County
  • Schenectady County
  • Erie County
  • City of Buffalo
  • Town of Cheektowaga
  • Town of West Seneca
  • Town of North Collins
  • Town of Niskayuna
  • Town of Hamburg
  • Town of Amherst
  • Village of New Paltz

Safe staffing is a crisis in New York and the numbers tell the story. In 2015, nurses from the New York State Nurses Association submitted more than 18,500 Protests of Assignment (POAs) to their hospitals due to unsafe staffing levels. These documents give formal notice to an employer that a patient care assignment is determined by the nurses to be unsafe. The POA’s are often signed by multiple nurses in a unit and can be submitted to the Department of Health to show the extent of the problem. In 2015, POA’s were registered from all across the state including:

  • Erie County: 595
  • Chautauqua County: 21
  • Oneida County: 185
  • Jefferson County: 460
  • Fulton County: 41
  • Cattaraugus: 217
  • Schenectady County: 379
  • Dutchess County: 847
  • Westchester County: 1209
  • Sullivan: 4
  • New York: 6124
  • Bronx: 3186
  • Kings: 2501
  • Queens: 337
  • Richmond: 1122
  • Nassau: 528
  • Suffolk: 801

The number of patients assigned to a nurse has a direct impact on the ability to appropriately assess, monitor, care for, and safely discharge patients. Hospitals that routinely staff with a 1:8 nurse-to-patient ratio experience five additional deaths per 1,000 patients than those staffing with a 1:4 nurse-to-patient ratio. Other studies show that inadequate staffing levels contribute to increased risk of patient falls, bedsores, hospital-acquired infections, and medication errors. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that the odds of patient death increased by 7% for each additional patient a nurse must care for at one time.

California lawmakers passed safe staffing legislation, and the results have been clear:

  • Nurse staffing has increased
  • Patient outcomes have improved
  • Ancillary staffing has been maintained
  • Hospitals have thrived

In fact, hospital income in California rose dramatically after ratios were implemented, from $12.5 billion from 1994 to 2003, to more than $20.6 billion from 2004 to 2010. 

It can not be clearer: Safe Staffing saves lives!

For more information, visit campaignforpatientsafety.org 

Mario Cilento, President, New York State AFL-CIO

"Patient safety is a societal issue because we have a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable amongst us," said New York State AFL-CIO President, Mario Cilento. "This bill will ensure that every patient gets the quality of care they require and deserve. Nurses need to be able to provide patient care at their maximum ability and safe nurse-to-patient ratios is the best way to do that. We know outcomes are better for patients when safe staffing levels are established and this bill is a cost-effective way to improve patient care and save lives."

Patricia Kane, RN, Treasurer, New York State Nurses Association 

"It is essential to pass the safe staffing bill for the patients, the nurses, and families across New York. Just look at the facts: patients heal faster, go home sooner, and are less likely to be readmitted – all while saving hospitals money. It’s just common sense, and that’s why we are working so hard to get the bill approved but the legislation.” 

Debora Hayes, Healthcare Director, CWA District One.

“Healthcare workers know that unsafe staffing harms patients and costs hospitals and nursing homes money but their best efforts to make change facility by facility have been rebuffed. Laws that require facilities to disclose how they staff each shift are wholly ignored, leaving patients to make life and death decisions in the dark. We need a law to protect workers and patients because what’s at stake transcends bargaining tables and boardrooms. Not one more call light should go unanswered, or life should be lost, because a nurse has two to three times more patients than she can safely care for.”

Dr. Hermant Sindhu, President, Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare

“In study after study, unsafe staffing levels lead to worse health outcomes, including for shock, cardiac arrest, and hospital-acquired pneumonia," said Dr. Hemant Sindhu, president of the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare.  "We know that the high-performing, safe, and just healthcare system of the future cannot be created unless we empower our frontline providers of care, and give them what they need to get the job done.  CIR doctors are proud to stand with the nurses of NYSNA on the issue of safe staffing on behalf of all of our patients.”

Bill Lipton, Executive Director, Working Families Party

"Safe staffing saves lives and its unacceptable that healthcare executives who receive bonuses based on cost-cutting measures are making decision about patient care without oversight. New York’s working families should have peace of mind that safe, minimum standards of care are in place no matter which hospital or nursing home at which they receive care.”

Wayne Spence, President, New York State Public Employees Federation:

"For more than a decade, PEF has raised the red flag about safe staffing levels in all medical facilities," said Wayne Spence, president of the New York State Public Employees Federation.  "Adequate nurse staffing is key to patient care and nurse retention. Staffing problems will only intensify as baby boomers age and the need for heath care grows, making safe-staffing ratios an ever pressing concern. All the studies have shown a correlation between inadequate nurse staffing and poor patient outcomes. It is time New York takes the initiative, as did California, to pass legislation for adequate nurse-to-patient ratio regulations."

Karen Scharff, Executive Director, Citizen Action of New York:

"When New Yorkers go to the hospital, they have a right to expect that they will receive quality care that meets their needs, and a key component of that is having a nurse who is not overwhelmed with too many patients during one shift.  We need the Legislature to pass safe staffing so we don't have to guess which hospitals are adequately staffed and which facilities are willing to take risks with our health and lives.”

Becca Telzak, Director of Health Programs, Make the Road New York 

“Every New Yorker should feel safe in our hospitals and nursing homes but there is evidence that inadequate staffing disproportionally affects communities of color. There needs to be a law establishing safe, consistent minimum standards of care because when life and death decisions are left to executives without oversight, our most vulnerable populations will suffer.”

Maria Alvarez, Executive Director, NY Statewide Senior Action Council:

"Older New Yorkers are particularly affected by unsafe staffing in hospitals and nursing homes. Seniors routinely experience long term consequences from preventable infections, falls and bed sores.  As a consequence, many are never able to recover. The state must establish minimum safe nurse to patient ratios in all hospitals and nursing homes to protect patients from poor outcomes and to give them the assurance that their call lights will be responded to in a timely manner when they need help.”

Barry Kaufmann, President, New York State Alliance for Retired Americans

“On behalf of the 440,000 seniors that are represented by the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans, the issues of chronic under-staffing and low nurse-to-patient ratios are alarming and real. Ignoring nurses’ concerns for the well-being of their patients is both egregious and ill-advised. It is imperative that this legislation be passed to protect citizens of all ages across New York State.”

Jonathan Westin, Executive Director, New York Communities for Change

“The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act will benefit both patients and the nurses who take care of them. We support this legislation, as it will ensure that nurses have the resources to take the absolute best care of their patients. All Americans deserve healthcare of which the quality is never compromised.”

Kirk Laubenstein, Executive Director, Coalition for Economic Justice:

"The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act will benefit both patients and the nurses who take care of them. We support this legislation, as it will ensure that nurses have the resources to take the absolute best care of their patients."

Mark Hannay, Director, Metro New York Health Care For All

"The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act will go a long way to ensuring that there is no difference between access to a healthcare facility and access to healthcare. Patients and their loved ones should not have to guess which hospital will have enough qualified nursing staff to save their life on any given shift."

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