Nurses across NY push back against mandatory overtime

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Nurses say staffing shortages are leading to forced overtime and they’re already overstressed and overworked. A number of unions that represent nurses across New York are now calling on the state legislature to do something about it.

Whether it’s coming in on their days off, “after we pick-up a shift, we’ll say okay I’ll come in and work 8 hours, then they will mandate us for an additional 8 hours,” says Alicyn Salato, an RN at Auburn Community Hospital.

Other nurses say there are times they literally can’t leave the operating room, “they do know that there is no one to get you out and you know that you cannot leave the room because that is abandonment and we don’t abandon our patients regardless of whether we’re tried or hungry or want to go home,” explains Lisa Kozma an RN at Garnet Health.

Una Davis, an RN at Montefiore, says she worries about the toll it takes on she and her coworkers, “the quality of patient care diminishes when nurses are physically, mentally and emotionally drained,” she says.

“It does nothing for the current nursing shortage, it does nothing for the morale of any facility,” Salato adds.

New York State already has rules that prevent hospitals and health systems from mandating overtime shifts but as always, there’s some wiggle room, “there’s a hurricane, there’s a snowstorm, people actually can’t get to work and there’s a need potentially to mandate to make sure that patients in the hospital are safe so the mandatory overtime law provided for those type of emergencies but what happened is it had a very broad exemption for it any declaration of a state of emergency,” explains Helen Schaub, the Policy Director for 1199SEIU.

And for the better part of two years, the state has technically been in a state of emergency due to the COVID19 pandemic, so NYS hasn’t been enforcing the rules and these nurses feel like hospitals have been taking advantage of that, “a hole in the schedule is not an emergency, it’s an open hope and that is sadly what is happening,” Kozma says.

That’s why they’re calling on the state legislature to help, “the bills increase penalties on facilities to make sure, or dis-incentivize them from using mandatory overtime to address routine staffing needs,” explains Schaub.

UR Medicine tells News10NBC it does not mandate overtime for RNs. There is plenty of it available and RNs are urged to pick-up shifts but a Spokesman for the health system says they can say no.

A spokeswoman for Rochester Regional Health also says that the health system does not mandate overtime.