NEW YORK NURSE: December 2010
by Randi Hoffman
NYSNA nurses employed by the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) and mayoral agencies gathered early on Dec. 7 for NYSNA’s inaugural City Council Liaison Breakfast. The breakfast, held at NYSNA’s New York City office, kicked off a new initiative designed to encourage the nurses to develop relationships with city councilmembers and keep them informed of issues of importance to nurses through regular, ongoing contact.
City councilmembers in attendance were Rosie Mendez (D, Manhattan) and Gale Brewer (D, Manhattan). James Sanders (D, Queens) was represented by his policy director, Donovan Richards; Julissa Ferreras (D, Queens) was represented by her chief of staff, Yoselin Genao; and Jessica Lappin (D, Manhattan) was represented by Christina Bottego, her policy director.
Genao said allowing nursing work to be designated as physically taxing is a human issue and obviously the right thing to do. Speaking about women and work, she said, “Women earn 23 cents less than men do for comparable work, and African-American and Latina women even less than that.”
The HHC nurses have been fighting for years to get the City of New York to classify the work of nurses and midwives as physically taxing occupations, allowing workers to retire with 25 years of service at age 50 with a full pension. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in May there is reason to believe that the city’s refusal to allow nurses the physically taxing designation constitutes illegal gender discrimination. The EEOC recently transferred the case to the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for a possible lawsuit against the city.
Richards noted his family connection to nursing. “My grandmother was a nurse for over 50 years, and my aunt is a nurse in the Rockaways,” he said. “Most people can’t even fathom the job that nurses do. You should come to us, and we should listen. You should make us listen.”
Mendez spoke about growing up in public housing and using local clinics for health care as a child. She moved on to speak about hospital closures and overcrowding. “When Cabrini Medical Center in lower Manhattan closed in 2008, more people crammed into the emergency room at Bellevue. And when St. Vincents closed in the West Village last year, the numbers of people flooding to Bellevue Hospital Center were unbelievable.”
Brewer spoke about a meeting she had later in the day about electronic medical records. The nurses in the room then debated the pros and cons of electronic healthcare records, and the problems encountered when different medical record computer programs cannot interface.
The HHC nurses have also been meeting with city councilmembers in their offices. So far, 15 of these meetings have taken place, and many more are scheduled.
NYSNA Community Representative Carol Pittman, who is leading the liaison program, said, “Enabling the nurses to communicate our issues and build relationships with our elected council people will help them to be strong advocates for themselves, as well as for NYSNA.”