ALBANY, N.Y. — Nurses from across New York City are participating in a day of pickets and rallies Wednesday to call for new employment contracts and a state law mandating minimum staffing levels at hospitals.
Some 15,000 nurses from 13 health care facilities in the city plan to participate in events around the city during what the New York State Nurses Association is calling a day of protest. Members of the union are pushing to include staffing ratios in new contracts with health care employers. They also want lawmakers to pass a new law putting minimum staffing levels in statute.
They note that nurses filed thousands of formal protests alleging understaffing at hospitals last year, a problem with they say can lead to overworked nurses and lapses in care.
Anthony Ciampa has been a nurse for 15 years and is now NYSNA's first vice president. He said requiring minimum staffing levels in new contracts — or a state law — would improve patient outcomes. He noted that California already requires certain staffing levels for nurses.
"If California can do it New York should absolutely be able to do it too. To me it's a no brainer," he said.
Hospital executives and organizations say the requirement would increase health care costs and undermine their flexibility by imposing top-down requirements.
"The reality is that the union's rigid, mandated staffing ratios would lower the quality of patient care," said Linden Zakula, a spokesman for the New York City Hospital Alliance. "We support a patient-first approach to staffing that is built on tailored, flexible staffing plans_designed by experienced nurses_that have proven to best meet the individual and ever-changing needs of patients.
The legislation has been debated in the state Legislature for years. It has bipartisan support but it has not been scheduled for a vote.AlertMe