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Nurses Push Lawmakers to Pass Minimum Staffing Law

Associated Press 

ALBANY — Nearly 2,000 nurses from around New York state traveled to the Capitol in Albany on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to pass a minimum staffing law that would mandate how many nurses are on duty at hospitals and nursing homes.

The proposal has been discussed for years but recently picked up increased bipartisan support, giving nurses hope that it will pass before lawmakers adjourn for the year in June.

The proposal would set out different staffing ratios for specific units within a hospital or nursing home. Operating rooms and trauma emergency units would have one nurse for each patient. Emergency rooms and newborn units would have one nurse for three patients. Rehabilitation units would have one nurse for every five patients.

"There are many days when there are not enough nurses," said Marion Enright, a registered nurse who works in a hospital in Gloversville, N.Y. "Every person is either going to be a patient or have a family member who will be. They deserve the best care."

Hospital executives argue that each facility needs to set its own staffing levels and that a one-size-fits-all approach is unnecessary and expensive. Hospitals and nursing homes estimate the mandate would add about $3 billion a year in costs statewide, according to Dennis Whalen, president of the Healthcare Association of New York State, which represents hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities.

The bill would appear to have wide support, with 91 sponsors in the Assembly and 27 in the Senate. But it has enjoyed broad backing from among rank-and-file lawmakers in previous years.

California implemented a nurse staffing rule more than a decade ago.

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