Union Seeks Help for Nurses

  1. <<News - Tuesday 3-12-02

    "Legislation would protect 'whistleblower' nurses -
    But health care workers also want to have mandatory overtime outlawed -

    News - Wednesday 3/13/02
    Gannett News Service -

    "Union Seeks Help for Nurses -

    ALBANY -- New York State should prevent hospitals and nursing homes from making nurses work overtime, establish minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and require hospitals to disclose what those ratios are now, lawmakers and nursing-union officials say.

    "Nurses are leaving patient care because they're burned out, fed up and just plain tired," said Robert Piemonte, president of the New York State Nurses Association. "They're tired of not knowing whether they're going to be mandated to work overtime. They're tired of running the risk of back injuries, exposure to infection and even physical attacks."

    He cited a study that showed that 19 percent of registered nurses in New York no longer work in nursing -- up from 15 percent four years earlier.

    The union couldn't provide statistics on how much the workload of nurses has increased, but did say that because people are staying in hospitals for shorter times, the overall hospital population is sicker than it used to be.

    "The intensity of nursing care has greatly increased," said the association's lobbyist, Gail Myers.

    Bills to accomplish these goals have been introduced in both houses of the state Legislature, but it's not clear whether they'll be acted on. Two lawmakers, Sen. Nicholas Spano, R-Yonkers, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, appeared with the nurses Monday to demonstrate their support.

    "I shadowed a nurse for a day at the Westchester Medical Center," Senator Spano said, "so I got a firsthand look at the problems nurses face."

    Assemblyman Gottfried said the state should be willing to raise taxes if that's what it takes to ensure quality health care.

    The Senate gave final legislative approval Monday to Spano's whistleblower-protection bill, which enhances safeguards for nurses and others who report problems to government regulators. It now goes to Gov. George Pataki for his signature or veto.

    All of these moves miss the point of the main problem of nursing: a shortage of people who want to make health care their career, said a spokeswoman for the state Hospital Association.

    "There are just not enough people available," said Jeannie Cross. She said that sometimes hospitals have no choice but to make nurses work overtime, since the option would be to leave some patients without care.

    But the nurses responded that if they knew they wouldn't be required to stay at work, or knew there were enough nurses so they could deliver quality care, they would be less likely to look for a job in another field......"
    http://www.stargazette.com >>>>>

    I was disappointed to see that the articles, which report on the same nurses legislative news conference, did not include Assemblyman Gottfried's very direct answer to the question that reporter asked about raising taxes to pay for safe staffing initiatives. The Assemblyman matter of factly said: Well, if we dont do something about safe practice and safe care and not having nurses working in these kinds of conditions and for these many hours, then we all will just have to understand and expect that when we go to the hospital we will not come out in the condition we had hoped for.... if we come out at all.

    He hit a home run with that comment.
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 26, '02
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    About -jt

    Joined: Oct '00; Posts: 2,662; Likes: 46


  3. by   -jt

    Since FEBRUARY when the Gov signed a law adding a cigarette tax to pay for higher salaries for healthcare workers, we have had a special state fund of taxpayer monies set aside specifically for recruitment/retention of nursing staff. The money is ONLY supposed to be used for this purpose.

    Soooooo...... Westchester Medical Center in a suburb of NYC received $7.2 MILLION to be used to help them afford to pay for more nursing staff & contract improvements that will make the place an attractive place to work.......well that was the INTENT of the legislators, the public, and in setting aside the money, that is. BUT......

    We could have placed bets on how long it would take for the hospital to grab that money & suddenly find other uses for it. In fact, they have announced that they are paying off their DEBTS with this taxpayer special funds money that was intended to pay for more nursing staff & recruitment/retention incentives. The hospital is even taking the nurses to court in attempt to be able to keep this nursing money from the nurses!

    If it gets away with its plan, there will be nothing left for nursing recruitment/retention, or even the contract they now have & the hospital is already demanding GIVE BACKS from the nurses - while it keeps the money the state gave it to pay for all of those items and more!

    There should not even have to be a fight over this contract since this hospital was GIVEN the money by the state to afford all of it & then some.

    More than $7 MILLION free dollars handed to that hospital by the taxpayer specifically to pay for nursing staff & the hospital wont spend it on nurses.........

    Does this take a supreme pair, or what?

    << For Immediate Release

    Westchester Med RNs ask management: "WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?"

    Nurses to hold May 1 protest

    Valhalla, NY, April 26, 2002 - A special fund was established this past winter by New York state to help health care institutions maintain and improve staffing. Westchester Medical Center, however, doesn't plan to use its entire $7.2 million allocation for that purpose.

    "So what is the hospital doing with the money?" the registered nurses are asking, noting that using the allocation for any other purpose would be a violation and could result in its withdrawal.

    In an effort to persuade the medical center's board of directors to use the funding correctly, the nurses are planning to hold a protest rally from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at the healthcare campus' South Orchard Lot near the Taylor Care Center.

    The 1,500 RNs are represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). Their most recent five-year contract expired on March 31, 2001. The nurses have been trying for more than a year through negotiations to find solutions to the hospital's staffing problems, but management has offered little progress.

    Recruitment has been difficult for the past several months because of the grueling working conditions its RNs face. High turnover, unfilled vacancies, short staffing, and frequent forced overtime fatigue nurses and endanger patient care. GIVEBACKS demanded by management during negotiations will only further compromise working conditions and hinder recruitment.

    The medical center is taking steps to legislatively force a contract on the nurses, scheduling a formal hearing on the matter for Tuesday, April 30. Medical center management has asked the board to impose a salary increase of 3%. This is below the average increase of 5% granted by other area hospitals that made use of the state funding. The medical center has also WITHDRAWN all other tentative agreements the parties had reached.

    "Instead of forcing a settlement, the medical center should listen to the needs of its nurses," said Thomas Darby, NYSNA labor representative. "A contract sets the terms of working conditions, and it should be NEGOTIATED - not imposed. The nurses plan to exercise their right to not participate in the hearing because they will not participate in any activity that will result in an imposed contract."
    Last edit by -jt on Apr 27, '02