Before COVID-19 hit, New York experienced a nursing shortage in hospitals and other health care facilities. Now with fears of a second wave the need for nurses has risen again.
But health care workers from the Bronx felt that Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state are dragging their feet on the matter.
On Aug. 26, nurses at Jacobi and Lincoln Hospitals rallied, urging Cuomo to heed their requests and find funding for more nurses.
“The damage to low-income and POC communities’ health when we cut resources to public hospitals is lasting,” said the New York State Nurses Association on Facebook. “Governor Cuomo and NY legislators, stop balancing the budget on the backs of overworked public-sector nurses. Tax the rich and stop the cuts!”
“How can politicians call nurses ‘heroes’ one day, and lay us off the next? H+H is already underfunded, understaffed and under-appreciated. New York needs to tax the rich and invest in our public healthcare system, not starve it further,” NYSNA continued.
Councilman Fernando Cabrera joined the nurses last week in the protest. He called the recently released State Department of Health study on nurse staffing “fixed” and is also demanding the hiring of more nurses.
“Just two weeks ago, fully eight months late, the Department of Health released a nurse staffing report based on flawed methodology, with no consideration of the lessons learned from COVID-19,” Cabrera said. “The study wildly overstates the economic impact of meeting minimum, safe nurse staffing levels. This study was ‘fixed’ to misrepresent the facts.”
Cabrera recently introduced a resolution, “Safe Staffing for Nurses,” calling on the State Department of Health to be responsive to the needs of nurses and low-income communities of color.
“We need to protect the nurses who are protecting us,” Cabrera said. “Nurses helped get New York out of the ‘epicenter’ and it’s nurses who can help us prevent a dangerous second wave of COVID-19 which would cost more lives and livelihoods. What we cannot afford is cutting corners on safe staffing. Loss of human lives is the real cost. The state has not moved forward and it’s now a matter of life and death.”
According to Cabrera, the state is claiming it will cost a billion dollars to hire more nurses, which he said is total “nonsense.”
“It’s not only doable, it’s needed,” he said. “Our nurses have been burnt out. We need to take from lessons we learned back in March when we were not prepared.”
Things may be headed in the right direction as the state is currently examining legislation that would “set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, including a standard of one nurse for every two patients in intensive care units.”