More than 1,500 health care workers from across New York packed the West Capitol Park in Albany today for a rally in support of two bills to address the patient care crisis in this state - the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act (A6571/ S3691-A), which would create safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios for acute care facilities, and the Safe Patient Handling Act (A2180-A/S1123-A), which would create a statewide safe patient handling policy.
Health care workers from four unions - the New York State Nurses Association, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the New York State Public Employees Federation, and the Communications Workers of America - have formed the New York Healthcare Workers Coalition to advocate for patients with a united voice. The coalition is working to enact these two bills this year to improve quality of care for patients throughout New York.
Elected leaders, including Sen. Kemp Hannon (R), Sen. George Maziarz (R), Assembly Member Aileen Gunther (D), and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (D), who are chief sponsors of the two bills, spoke at the rally as well as health care workers and patient advocates.
Today, members of the New York Healthcare Workers Coalition met with more than 150 state senators and Assembly members, and asked elected leaders to support legislation for safe nurse staffing ratios and safe patient handling.
"I've been shocked to see New York emergency room nurses who are being forced to take on 15, 16, and even more patients at a time. That's not safe," said Jill Furillo, RN, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association. "In California, the law says that a hospital cannot assign more than four patients at a time to an ER nurse - and sets minimum safe staffing levels for all hospital units. There's no reason New York patients can't have that same protection. Patients and caregivers are counting on our lawmakers to pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act this session."
Norma Amsterdam, RN, MA, executive vice president of the 1199SEIU League of Registered Nurses, said, "Nurses and other health care workers struggle to provide the best quality care to our patients every day against increasing odds in a climate of cost cutting. The acuity level of patients has escalated and therefore requires more nursing hours. It is imperative to support and pass these very important laws. Safe staffing and safe patient handling save lives and money."
"We know that quality nursing care can mean the difference between life and death for a patient," said Susan M. Kent, president of the New York State Public Employees Federation. "We also know that inadequate staffing results in poor patient outcomes. We are calling on our lawmakers to pass both the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act and the Safe Patient Handling Act to protect both nurses and patients and to ensure delivery of the best possible health care."
"Without enough nurses per patient, it is simply impossible for patients to get the kind of care they deserve - the kind of care we all would want for our loved ones," said Sarah Buckley, RN and representative of Communications Workers of America. "It is scandalous that New York state will not protect its residents when they are at their most vulnerable. Just like family members want to be able to leave a facility and sleep well knowing their family members are taken care of, so do nurses want to sleep well knowing they had the resources and capability to give the best care possible."
"Safe nurse staffing reduces avoidable patient injuries and deaths," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. "For example, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association determined the odds of patient death increased by 7 percent for each additional patient the nurse must care for at one time. The ratios and hours specified in this bill are based on peer-reviewed and evidence-based recommendations, and will ensure that that hospitals and nursing homes operate in a manner that guarantees the public safety and quality health care services."
"A strong safe patient handling program is good for workers, good for employers and even better for patients," Maziarz said. "My bill takes a common sense approach to ensure that hospitals and nursing homes have a strong training program to ensure that every health care worker is trained in safe lift techniques as well as in the use of equipment that can assist in those lifts. The implementation of safe patient handling will reduce worker's compensation costs, reduce workplace injuries and, most importantly, protect the health and safety of patients. I am confident that this will be the year that we finally pass these protections in both houses and send them to the governor for his signature."
Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act
Health care workers say that, right now, New York patients are at risk because health care administrators are forcing nurses to take on nine, 10, or even more patients at once. That's why the New York Healthcare Workers Coalition supports the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.
This legislation, similar to a bill that has already been enacted in California, will require all acute care facilities to comply with safe minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. The bill would also require all residential health care facilities to comply with minimum care hours for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nurse aides.
Health care workers say safe staffing levels will cut health care system costs, reduce the occurrence of avoidable patient deaths, decrease incidents of hospital-acquired infections, shorten hospital stays, and decrease readmissions.
The Safe Patient Handling Act
The Coalition of New York Healthcare Workers supports the Safe Patient Handling Act, legislation that would create a statewide safe patient handling policy for all health care facilities in New York state.
The coalition said safe patient handling practices reduce injuries for patients and for health care workers that result from manual lifting. The bill would require each hospital and nursing home in the state to provide proper equipment and training in the context of a program developed by the facility and tailored to its specific needs.
Projected results include:
Fewer falls, skin tears, and other injuries to patients.
Fewer career-ending and debilitating injuries for health care workers.
Cost savings to facilities through reduced workers compensation and patient injury claims and less money spent replacing injured workers.
Together, health care workers are calling on legislators to put patients first and pass these two important bills this year.