NEW YORK NURSE: June 2009
When the State Legislature adjourns in late June, it will end what is expected to be one of the most unproductive sessions in recent history.
The transition from a Republican-controlled State Senate to one controlled by the Democrats proved to be difficult, according to NYSNA lobbyists. “After several decades, Senate operations were taken over by new people,” said Shaun Flynn, NYSNA Director of Governmental Affairs. “Many bills were very late even in getting sponsors; forget about them moving out of committees for a vote.”
Despite these obstacles, legislation supported by NYSNA and its members got some traction in May and June. As New York Nurse went to press, lobbying efforts were being focused on legislation (A1752-A/S3527) that would require hospitals to disclose staffing levels to the state health department and the public. They also would have to report certain adverse events, medication errors, pressure ulcers, and hospital-acquired infections.
“The disclosure bill has always been on the table, although we would prefer mandated staffing ratios,” said Flynn. “This measure could be an important first step.”
There is no doubt that staffing ratios would be an indicator of the quality of care provided at each facility. Numerous studies have shown a relationship between high patient-to-nurse ratios and the incidence of patient complications and mortality. These relationships were in the areas of urinary tract infections, pneumonia, shock, and upper gastrointestinal bleeding.
“People want to have more information about the quality of care in hospitals,” said Flynn. “Information about nurse staffing levels in each unit during each shift should be available both to the public and to policymakers as they weigh the value of staffing ratios.”
After NYSNA’s hugely successful Lobby Day, a bill to address the issue of violence against nurses in the workplace passed the State Senate. It was sponsored by Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx County), a former LPN.
The bill would make an assault on a registered professional nurse or licensed practical nurse a class C or D felony, depending on the physical injury inflicted. It already is a felony to attack an emergency medical professional, such as an EMT. The legislation (A3103/S4018) was in the Assembly Codes Committee as New York Nurse went to press.
Legislation to establish nurse-to-patient ratios (A2264/S3843), which is supported by all the unions that represent nurses, also got sponsors in both houses.
The hospital industry raised an alarm when the measure came up for a vote in the Assembly Health Committee in mid-May. Sponsored by Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried, the bill moved on to the Codes Committee.
The Health Care Association of New York State urged its members (hospital CEOs) to contact their legislators and voice opposition to the staffing ratio bill. “Meeting the proposed ratios would require tens of thousands of new nursing staff and would literally cost billions,” said HANYS President Daniel Sisto.
Perhaps this is an indication of how inadequate staffing is now!