Updated: 02/16/2014 12:07 AM
Created: 02/15/2014 11:58 PM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch
ALBANY – Hospitals are putting patients at risk by forcing nurses to care for too many people at once, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said Saturday.
More than 100 NYSNA members marched on the concourse level of Empire State Plaza before rallying at the underground entrance to the state Department of Health (DOH).
"We don't have enough nurses to be on each shift, and that causes problems with our patients," said Lisa Blodgett, an emergency department nurse at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.
"How can you give great health care?" Blodgett asked. "How can you take care of your patients when you don't have enough nurses?"
A spokesman for Ellis Hospital did not respond to voicemails left on his cell phone Saturday evening. Other nurses alleged understaffing at hospitals in New York City.
The union is pushing for a “safe staffing bill” that would establish nurse-to-patient ratios at hospitals statewide, NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez said.
"Last year… it moved through two committees in the Assembly," she said. "There's a little problem in the Senate we're working on, but… we know we have a lot of supporters."
The bill also has opponents, including the Health Care Association of New York State (HANYS), which lobbies for hospitals.
HANYS believes that chief nursing officers in hospitals -- not the state -- should determine safe staffing levels, spokeswoman Melissa Mansfield said.
"Proposed legislation would impose arbitrary staffing ratios and would not improve quality of care," Mansfield said.
The bill would jeopardize patient access while adding $3 billion to the cost of care in New York, Mansfield said.
In the end, the nurses union – which is also demanding more money for health care in underserved communities – brought a petition DOH.
There was no one at the main desk on Saturday to receive it, so a smaller group will return on Tuesday. No one from DOH was available for comment.