April 17, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Registered nurses and other essential caregivers at 14 hospitals throughout the city hit the streets yesterday to sound a growing alarm over inadequate staffing levels.
Nurses and PCTs [Patient Care Technicians] rallying outside Maimonides Medical Center on 10th Avenue in Borough Park, said that the ratio of caregivers to patients has grown concernedly high, leaving dedicated staffers frustrated and recovering clients unhappy.
“When someone leaves the hospital, the last thing you want them to remember is the nurse not being there for them,” said Nancy Hagans, member of the New York State Nurses Association [NYSNA] and an RN in Maimonides' Anesthesia Care Unit. “You’re going to take the best care of your patients. But, eventually, it’s going to be a problem if that continues because being a nurse is not only about giving medication to your patients — you’re supposed to be there emotionally for them as well.”
Last weekend, Jera Thomas, a PCT in Maimonides Medical Center’s Progressive Care Unit, was forced to look after 15 patients at once. The 1199 SEIU member told LaborPress that a caregiver to patient ratio of 1 to 6 is actually manageable.
“It’s very hard because when you’re taking care of one patient and another one calls, you can’t run and leave the patient that you have,” Thomas said. “Patients are looking for faces. They feel more comfortable knowing that someone is there for them. So, if they call and no one’s there, they feel abandoned, which makes patient satisfaction scores go down. All it takes is one incident for them not to come back to our Maimonides.”
Despite repeated appeals to hospital management, Hagan said that requests for lower caregiver to patient ratios have gone unanswered.
In 2014, the 14 hospitals involved in Thursday’s protests received more than 25,000 formal RN complaints about short staffing. Most of them were generated in crucial medical/surgery units, emergency departments and psychiatric units.
NYSNA maintains that professional peer reviewed medical studies have already well established safe staffing standards, and that failing to adhere to them dramatically increases a patient’s risk of illness and health complications.
Longtime caregivers at Maimonides Medical Center say that an influx in patients stemming from the closure of surrounding health care facilities, is only exasperating the problems short staffing presents.
After 25 years at Maimonides, Hagans expressed her ultimate fear that short staffing could impact her ability to deliver excellent care.
“We realize everyday that we can’t practice like this” Hagans said. “If this continues, I’m afraid that as a patient advocate, I’m going to put somebody else’s life in jeopardy. As it stands, patients are being well taken care of and we provide the best care. But eventually, you’re going to run out, and you cannot provide safe care in that environment.”
According to NYSNA, the issue of safe staffing continues to be the main sticking point in ongoing contract negotiations between the hospitals and caregivers.
“We’re uniting for our patients and we’re asking management to prioritize safe RN and caregiver staffing levels that have proven to save lives,” NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez said in a statement. “There are times when we’re caring for 9 or 10 patients —even more — and it’s not possible to give each patient the attention that they need.”
Maimonides released a statement following yesterday’s demonstrations saying that progress is being made in talks with the union.