Testimony of the New York State Nurses Association before the Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations on Compensation Levels of Executives at Not-For-Profit Organizations, Feb. 6, 2012.
Good Morning/Good Afternoon, my name is Jayne Cammisa, and I am a registered nurse at Westchester Medical Center. I am also a member of the New York State Nurses Association. Thank you for letting me speak today in regards to the exorbitant executive salaries in some of New York’s hospitals and nursing homes.
According to 2009 financial reports, Westchester Medical Chief Executive Officer Michael Israel was paid $1.2 million. Our Chief Operating Officer Gary Brudnicki was paid $738,800, while 36 other executives were paid between $128,000 and $530,000. Wouldn’t some of this money be better spent on cultivating a stable RN workforce to provide quality patient care?
In the middle of contract negotiations this past October, the Nurses Association received notice that the facility would be eliminating 250 RN positions. An estimated 139 of these positions are nurses who work at the patients’ bedside. Other planned layoffs will affect direct-care providers such as nurse practitioners, clinicians, specialists, and positions that provide support, such as managers, supervisors, coordinators, and the entire Education Department of this Level 1 trauma teaching hospital. This staggering 19% cut in the direct-care nursing workforce at Westchester Medical Center is simply too much for the remaining staff to bear. RNs are already reporting that they are working short-staffed, and many have been doing so since layoffs at the medical center in 2003 and 2004. Staffing levels are an issue of concern because studies have linked poor staffing with higher incidences of adverse patient outcomes. My colleagues and I cannot comprehend why those at the bedside are being sacrificed while some executives continue to line their pockets at the taxpayer’s expense. The executives at our facility need to do the right thing. Cuts should begin with executive salaries, not caregivers at the bedside. What kind of message does this send not only to the other staff, but to the patients we serve, and the community, as a whole?
Even in current contract negotiations, Westchester Medical Center management is aggressively seeking cuts to nurses’ benefits and wages, while refusing to commit to severe cuts in management salaries and benefits or discuss the millions spent on outside contracts. Our negotiating committee offered $9 million in various givebacks to our employer only to be told that we didn’t work hard enough on our proposal. Westchester Medical Center faces the same dilemma as other healthcare facilities in New York State, yet others haven’t made cuts of such magnitude.
Westchester Medical Center has the highest case mix index in the country, and is the only burn unit between New York City and the Canadian border. It’s also the only level one trauma center between New York City and Albany, supporting patients from seven counties. Having committed, high quality, highly credible nurses at the bedside is vital to the survival of patients and to Westchester Medical Center. The layoffs at my facility will severely impact the safety and delivery of quality care not only in Westchester, but for the entire Hudson Valley area. This will not be world class medicine.
Recently, Governor Cuomo said that not-for-profits that provide services to the poor and needy must work to prevent public funds from being diverted to excessive compensation and unnecessary administrative costs. The Governor issued an executive order that would cap both executive compensation and administrative costs paid by the state to not-for-profit and for-profit service providers.
My colleagues and I at Westchester Medical Center and the New York State Nurses Association applaud the Governor and this committee for working to keep non-profit executives accountable for their salaries and better aligned with their not-for-profit missions.
Thank you for letting me speak today.
For more information, contact Governmental Affairs at 518.782.9400, ext. 283 or by e-mail.