May 23, 2011

Nurses to lobby for improved staffing levels and work conditions

Source: NYSUT Media Relations

ALBANY, N.Y. May 24, 2011 - Hundreds of nurses will converge on the Capitol today to call for the passage of legislation that would enhance staffing levels at acute care facilities statewide and improve patient-handling standards.

The health care workers will also meet with legislators to seek support for bills that would require the state's "Big Five" school districts to employ at least one school nurse per building, and to grant home-care nurses the same protections against mandatory overtime abuse extended to other nurses in New York state under legislation passed in 2008.

The nurses are members of a wide range of unions representing tens of thousands of health workers, and include NYSUT, the Public Employees Federation, 1199 SEIU and the New York State Nurses Association. They will be meeting with state lawmakers under the umbrella of the state AFL-CIO.

"Measures such as adequate staffing levels and improved patient-care standards are essential to providing the highest quality health care," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "While the economic concerns confronting our state are serious, this is one area where New Yorkers should demand that we not cut corners."

NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue - who leads the union's health care, and health and safety programs - said: "Despite the fiscal challenges facing New York state, it is essential that our health facilities and health professionals are able to ensure the delivery of the very best care possible. And, we are thankful the state Legislature has recognized this need with the passage in recent years of critical legislation such as protecting nurses from harmful mandatory overtime policies.

"However," Donahue added, "there is still more work that must be done to enhance the care our patients receive and improve the conditions under which our health professionals work, including the expansion of anti-mandatory overtime protections."

The lobby day will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Among the nurses, priority bills are:

  • A921 Gottfried/S4553 Hannon: "Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act" - Requires that applications for an acute care facility include a staffing plan for registered nurses, and establishes minimum nurse-to-patient ratios.
  • A1370-A Lancman /S2470-A Maziarz: "NYS Safe Patient Handling Task Force" - Creates a task force at the Department of Health to devise recommendations for improving safe-patient handling standards and seeks to replace the practice of manually lifting patients with safe-patient handling techniques.
  • A410 Gunther: (MOT) Hours Worked by Home Care Nurses - Restricts consecutive hours of required work by nurses in the home care setting except in emergencies; does not prohibit a nurse from voluntarily working overtime.
  • A1753 Gunther/S4557 Robach: Minimum School Nurse Staffing Standards - Requires the New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers and Syracuse school districts to employ at least one school nurse per school building, and requires each district to consult with a professional nursing association to determine the need for additional staff beyond the one nurse minimum.

NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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