For Immediate Release
Contact: Robin Wood, 518.782.9400, ext 223
BUFFALO, August 25, 2010 – The New York State Nurses Association, which represents RNs at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), today held a vigil for a nurse who was attacked and beaten by a psychiatric patient last week. The nurses and their community allies are joining together to express their support for their injured colleague and their concerns about safety against violence at the hospital for patients and staff.
The nurses and their union gathered at noon in front of the hospital at 462 Grider Street in Buffalo. The nurses came out to the vigil on their own time, on breaks and off-shift, because they believe it is vitally important to make sure that this pattern of violence at Erie County Medical Center ends now. They were joined by community allies including state Senators Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo) and William Stachowski (D-Lake View), Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo), as well as representatives from the Western New York Area Labor Federation, CSEA and Communications Workers of America locals, and from the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health.
The nurse, who doesn’t want to be identified publically, was beaten severely enough that she remains hospitalized and it is not yet known if she will make a full recovery. The ECMC RNs and the Nurses Association handed out red and white ribbons as a visible indication of the community’s support for the injured nurse.
“This is a terrible situation, a terrible thing for this nurse to have to go through – and it didn’t have to happen,” said Lorraine Seidel, MA, RN, director of the Nurses Association’s Economic and General Welfare program. “Erie County Medical Center has a long history of safety problems and it has not taken adequate steps to protect nurses and other staff.”
The Nurses Association has been trying to get Erie County Medical Center to improve its safety and security procedures for years, asking for increased staffing, security guards, enclosed nursing stations, and other effective measures to improve workplace safety. Since a 2007 complaint to the New York State Department of Labor Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau (PESH), the Nurses Association has been participating in a workplace violence taskforce, but the nurses at the facility say hospital management has added paperwork and red tape without taking real, effective steps to improve employee safety.
The problem of nurses and health care workers being assaulted on the job is not, however, limited to any one hospital or any one location. Nationally, nurses are three times more likely to encounter violence on the job than any other professional, according to an International Council of Nurses statistic. In New York, the Nurses Association has successfully lobbied for a new law that makes it a felony to assault a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) while on duty. The law, signed by Gov. David Paterson Aug. 14, goes into effect in November.
“The new law is a significant victory for the Nurses Association and our members. It will encourage the prosecution of assaults that have too long been considered ‘just a part of the job,’ but the law doesn’t relieve hospitals of the obligation to provide a safe workplace,” Seidel said.
The Nurses Association has filed a new complaint with PESH, which is being investigated, and continues to offer to work with hospital management on improving workplace safety policies, procedures and training.
“Nurses become and remain nurses because they get a deep satisfaction for helping patients and that care should be repaid with respect, not violence,” Seidel said. “Erie County Medical Center needs to take all necessary steps to improve safety and security immediately, before someone else gets hurt.”
The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 36,000 members, it is the state's largest professional association and largest union for registered nurses. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy, and collective bargaining.
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