NEW YORK NURSE: March 2009
The annual debate over the state budget is in full swing, with Gov. David Paterson coming under fire for his proposed reductions in funding to hospitals and nursing homes.
NYSNA member leaders came to Albany in February to remind legislators that less funding for healthcare facilities often means fewer nurses to care for patients. “We have seen over the years that facilities respond to financial setbacks by laying off nurses, imposing hiring freezes, and reducing ancillary staff,” said Winnie Kennedy, member of the NYSNA Board of Directors, who attended the lobbying sessions. “This puts patients at risk.”
“We are telling legislators that if they go forward with reducing payments to hospitals, they must ensure that staffing does not suffer,” said Shaun Flynn, director of NYSNA’s Governmental Affairs Department. “The state can do that by passing a law that requires healthcare facilities to disclose their staffing levels to the government and the public.”
In addition to Kennedy, the nurses’ budget SWAT team included Anne Bové from the Board of Directors, Audrey Ludmer and Vicky Arrick from the Delegate Assembly, Gorete Crowe and Eileen Letzeiser from the NYSNA-PAC Board of Trustees, and Pat Kane and Bridget Maybury from the Council on Legislation.
Nurses talked to Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, plus Health Committee chairs Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Thomas Duane, both Democrats from Manhattan. They also met with Assemblymember Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) and Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens), chairs of the Higher Education committees.
In addition to restoring Medicaid funding, the nurses urged lawmakers to restore funding to programs that support nursing education. They met with State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Bronx/Westchester) to discuss the problem of workplace violence and she agreed to support NYSNA’s bill that would increase the penalty for physical assaults on nurses.
State legislators and the governor have agreed that the state will have a $14 billion deficit by March 2010. However, New York is set to receive $24.6 billion from the federal stimulus package over the next two years. Some of the money will initially be spent on construction of roads and bridges and some will be allocated to school districts. It is expected that funds will be earmarked for health care, but the exact allocation has not been determined.
Watch your mailbox for information on how you can send a message to legislators about the need to fund healthcare services in our state.