Nurses took to the sidewalk outside Montefiore’s Weiler Hospital in Morris Park on Thursday, April 16 as part of a citywide series of rallies calling for ‘safe staffing’ at New York hospitals.
The New York State Nurses Association led the protests ahead of April 22 contract negotiations that they hope will lead to increased hiring.
Outside Weiler, where hospital nurse Karine Raymond, NYSNA board member and chair of the Weiler Division said nurses are overworked and understaffed, nurses chanted slogans and handed out flyers to passersby during their breaks.
“The goal today is to demonstrate to the downstate community that there is a shortage of nurses to provide safe patient care,” said Raymond.
The nurses at Weiler have to give up breaks to give care to patients, she said, and they quickly become overworked and tired, which leaves them vulnerable to making mistakes.
NYSNA encourages nurses to submit ‘protests of assignments’ when they feel they are in unsafe situations, and in a three month period last year more than 100 were collected at Weiler.
“Nothing’s occurred, but we’re afraid someday something’s going to happen,” said Raymond. “We have to encourage the hospital to do the right thing by their patients.”
The union will be asking employers to reduce the minimum ratio of medical-surgical nurses to patients from 1 to 6 to 1 to 4, Raymond said, as well as press them to enforce 1 to 2 ratios in critical care cases, where she said nurses sometimes find themselves ‘tripled.’
Even in less critical cases, patients don’t receive the kind of attention nurses used to be able to provide, said Raymond.
“Patients wait far too long to get care because they won’t provide safe staffing,” she said.
Long wait times in Weiler’s Emergency Department has been a chronic issue highlighted by community leaders and elected officials in the past year, and last fall Montefiore touted decreases in the wait time due to improvements they made to patient flow, which NYSNA said was not enough. NYSNA has called for an additional 30 nurses to be hired in the ED, and Montefiore agreed to only 15.
The situation last year where patients where admitted to hallway beds was in fact resolved when Montefiore opened up an additional room on top of moving the orthopedic unit to its Wakefield campus, said Raymond.
In the last three years, Montefiore said it has added nearly 500 nurses, half of whom were hired to increase nurse staffing to meet patients’ complex needs.
The NYC Hospital Alliance, a multi-employer bargaining group which includes Montefiore Medical Center responded to the rallies with a statement that they continue to negotiate in good faith with NYSNA to reach a fair contract that honors nurses by protecting their strong health and pension benefits and offering a wage increase that keeps them among the best paid nurses in the country.
“NYSNA’s insistence on rigid staffing ratios is not the way to improve patient care,” the statement read. “Nor is there a shortage of nurses currently as the hospitals that make up the Alliance have collectively hired 1,000 additional nurses since the last contract was signed. In a changing health care landscape that requires flexibility and a team-based approach, staffing levels and assignments must remain the responsibility of hospital management,” the statement said.