NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2010
by Erin Silk
The 2010-11 Executive State Budget held the dubious honor of being the second latest in New York’s history at 125 days. The legislature spent the spring in a heated battle with Governor David Paterson over a budget that originally contained $134 billion dollars in cuts.
This devastating figure included $1 billion in cuts to health care with combined reductions of more than $562 million in payments for services and $250 million in increased assessments on services delivered. During the impasse, the state deficit continued to grow to more than $9 billion.
In an attempt to force the hand of state government, Governor Paterson offered a series of weekly emergency budget bills, including $384 million in cuts to health care. This so-called “gubernatorial blackmail” forced lawmakers to approve the proposed cuts to avoid a government shut-down.
No region was spared as upstate and downstate facilities absorbed large losses in funding. The budget at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center was cut by $7 million, while Erie County Medical Center lost $855,000 in state funds. Catskill Regional Medical Center also took a large hit with $1,183,000 in cuts.
However, there was some good news out of the legislative session. For the first time in NYSNA’s history, all four of the association’s legislative priorities (educational advancement, safe staffing ratios, violence against nurses, and safe patient handling) advanced in the legislature before the end of session.
In a significant victory for NYSNA and New York’s nurses, the Violence Against Nurses bill (A3103/S4018) passed both the Senate and the Assembly. As this issue goes to press, the bill is currently awaiting the governor’s signature. This legislation increases the penalties for assaulting an RN or licensed practical nurse in the workplace. This hard-won measure signals to nurses that violence is no longer “just part of the job” and will not be tolerated.
NYSNA will continue to monitor key bills and opportunities to advance our legislative agenda. Given the uncertainty that exists in the legislature with regards to funding and leadership, it’s more important than ever for nurses to advocate for issues that affect their patients and practice.