Task force proposes ways to fight nurse shortage
Albany -- Report recommends more nursing student scholarships and limiting mandatory overtime
By CLAIRE HUGHES, Staff writer
First published: Friday, August 24, 2001
The state should offer scholarships and stipends to nursing students and ensure that mandatory overtime for nurses is used only as an emergency measure, according to a report issued Thursday by the state Assembly's Republican minority.
The report, "Resolving New York's Nursing Shortage,'' includes a total of 18 recommendations for improving the nursing profession and its image in order to retain and recruit more nurses as a labor shortage threatens to cripple health care over the next decade.
"Nurses are so overwhelmed at this point they are just leaving the profession in droves,'' said Assemblywoman Maureen O'Connell, R-Westbury, a former nurse who chaired the task force that created the report.
If nursing school enrollments continue to decline, the state faces a shortage of 18,000 nurses by 2005 and 35,000 by 2015, according to the report.
The 34-page document, however, does not include any estimates on the cost of implementing its recommendations, which were the result of eight statewide meetings with nurses, health facility administrators, educators and labor leaders.
One recommendation is to create a $500 income tax credit for the approximately 150,000 nurses working statewide at a cost of about $7.5 million.
Other suggestions include:
* Streamlining paperwork requirements from the state Department of Health.
* Encouraging increased wages for nurses through state grants or targeted Medicaid reimbursements.
* Funding on-site child care for nurses.
Supporting the report's recommendations were representatives of the New York Nurses Association, a union representing nurses.
But hospitals, many of which have substantially increased nurses' salaries and offered sign-on bonuses, can't afford all the measures, said Monica Mahaffey, spokeswoman for the Healthcare Association of New York State.
Legislation to implement some of the recommendations is being drafted by the Assembly minority.
But it doesn't look like Assembly Republicans will have the support of the majority party in their house. The Democratic chair of the Assembly's Health Committee, Richard Gottfried of Manhattan, said the report released Thursday is full of old news.
The report, Gottfried said, is "a collection of ideas that are obvious to almost everybody who has looked at the nursing shortage -- except the most important (idea),which is doing something in the state budget.''
The Assembly's Democratic majority has proposed restoring to the state budget $322 million in Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes, and adding to that another $100 million.
The Senate has been pushing for several proposals, including restoring about $322 million to the state budget in Medicaid reimbursements.
Copyright 2001, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.