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Staten Island nurses and supporters rally for safe staffing

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- About 50 nurses and supporters across the Staten Island community joined together to fight for safe staffing in their workplaces.

The nurses, who are members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), chanted outside of Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze on Sunday for "Safe Staffing Day of Action."

The nurses are calling on lawmakers in Albany to pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.

"Since I've been a member of this union and since I've been a registered nurse, we have been trying to get this bill passed in Albany. We need this bill passed now," said Pat Kane, an open heart surgery registered nurse at Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze, and treasurer for NYSNA. "We're having these rallies throughout the state and we're calling on Albany to pass our Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act."

According to NYSNA, the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act will do the following:

  • Make sure there are enough nurses at the bedside of patients.
  • Set a cap on the number of patients a nurse is responsible for at any given time.
  • Establish safe nurse-to-patient ratios in all of New York Hospitals.
  • Require hospitals to staff nurses in the specific unit for which they are trained.
  • Require hospitals to be more transparent.

Nurses from Richmond University Medical Center, West Brighton, and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1102 labor union, supported the rally on Sunday.

"We want this bill for safe patient care," said Maddalena Spero, recovery room registered nurse, NYSNA. "We want to be able to give quality care. We want to protect our patients. This is our community. I live here. This is my second home."


NYSNA said its nurses fill out "Protests of Assignment" (POA) when care issues arise, and then share the POAs with hospital management.

"We're registered nurses, we're licensed by the state of New York," Kane said. "We have an ethical obligation to our patients and to our community. When we feel we cannot provide our patients adequate care because we don't have enough resources to do so, we are obligated to inform our supervisors who make those assignments, and delegate that duty of care to us, [right now] we're unable to do that safely."

At Staten Island University Hospital, 1,815 POAs have been filed over the last three years that include complaints from over 8,600 nurses, according to NYSNA.

NYSNA represents more than 1,100 nurses employed at Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze. Nurses at the Prince's Bay site are represented by a different union.


Staten Island University Hospital issued the statement to the Advance in response to the rally on Sunday: "While NYSNA's social media posts, advertisements and demonstrations like the one held today at Staten Island University Hospital continue to claim that safe staffing is at the root of its contract dispute, it's now clear that the union is motivated purely by a desire to further supplement the generous retirement health benefits provided to its 1,200 members at SIUH's North Site."

The hospital said that all of Northwell's investments in nurse hiring are based on "legitimate staffing needs, not mandated quotas like those advocated by NYSNA."

The hospital said in the statement: "The leadership of Staten Island University Hospital has always been committed to patient safety - a commitment that will never waver. In fact, as the needs of our patients have changed over the years, we have added staff and continually review the hospital's staffing needs, taking input from our registered nurses, medical staff and other employees."

NYSNA nurses at Staten Island University Hospital also recently voted to strike over contract disagreements.

The hospital said it made its "'last, best and final offer' during labor negotiations last week that addresses the concerns of nurses, including three percent annual wage increases over the next three years, with the first increase retroactive to March 1, 2018."

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