LaborPress

New York, NY – Overworked Nurses already burnt out from short staffing and Covid-19 cases are hoping a legislative package carrying a maximum $3,000 penalty for forced overtime will pass muster before the current legislative session expires in June. 

Nurses with 1199SEIU and NYSNA say existing laws prohibiting hospital administrators from forcing mandatory overtime onto RNs — even when there is no emergency present — were already being largely ignored prior to the pandemic and the last two years of emergency rule have pushed many to the breaking point. 

“They can’t keep abusing us like this,” RN Lisa Kozma told reporters on Thursday. 

Kozma is emblematic of the plight of many nurses across the state. She’s spent her entire 36-year-career at Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown. It’s always felt like home — even back in the 80s when the medical facility was known by another name and Kozma says she worked long shifts while eight months pregnant. Today, however, she describes the hospital environment as “hostile” and “tense” with as many as six fellow nurses just recently calling it quits. 

“[Hospital administrators] need to stop treating healthcare as a business…and get to the root of the problem,” Kozma said. 

The bills Labor Committee Chairs Jessica Ramos and Latoya Joyner have introduced in the State Senate and Assembly respectively, do not come close to addressing the fatal flaws inherent in our for-profit healthcare system — and they do not cover home care nurses — but advocates insist they are an important “first step” in securing important job protections for RNs while attracting others to the field. 

“Let’s take care of nurses the way they take care of us,” Sen. Ramos said. 

State Senator Robert Jackson — who along with Assembly Member Aileen Gunther has introduced bills that, if enacted, would impose monetary penalties between $1,000 and $3,000 on hospitals guilty of forcing nurses to work overtime absent an emergency — recently turned New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan where he said, “The exhaustion I saw was very real” with nurses “crying and wiping away tears.” 

“[Hospitals] need to hire more nurses,” he said. 

LaborPress has reached out to Governor Kathy Hochul’s office for comment and is awaiting a reply.

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