Union that represents healthcare workers files nearly 8,000 safe staffing violations

Union files nearly 8,000 healthcare safe staffing violations

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A new state law mandates hospitals and health systems meet certain staff-to-patient ratios. It’s intended to ensure patients don’t suffer because of staffing shortages that are impacting health systems — but less than a year after the law was implemented, thousands of complaints have been filed by healthcare workers claiming hospitals are violating it. 

There’s no question every healthcare system is hard-up for qualified workers. “Staffing is the #1 issue that affects work conditions, it affects the ability to provide care, it affects people’s family life, their home life,” says Debora Hayes, a Registered Nurse and CWA D1 Upstate New York Director. 

A number of unions that represent healthcare workers statewide negotiated a seat at the table to set safe staffing ratios and successfully lobbied lawmakers to actually mandate them. But, less than a year after the law went into effect, one of the biggest unions says it has nearly 8,000 examples of it not being followed. 

“It doesn’t matter which facility or system it is, it is a common issue,” Hayes says. “There are literally not enough nurses and direct care givers at the bedside to provide the care that needs to be provided.”

CWA provided some of the following examples of violations to the law:

  • Some of the nurses working under 1:3 nurse-to-patient ratios in the ICU departments, when the ratio required by the law and necessary for adequate care is 1:2 for critical and intensive care patients. 
  • Entire patient care units being left without any Care Attendants because they were floated to other shortages in the hospital, leaving patients without being changed, cleaned or provided their medication.
  • Management consistently mandated staff to work beyond their scheduled hours on a regular basis. 

The Communications Workers of America Union (CWA) filed formal complaints with the New York State Department of Health, which sends inspectors into hospitals to investigate. If correction plans aren’t met, the health systems could face fines,

“There has to be some ability to get a hospital or a system’s attention; and if money is the only thing that will do it, then so be it,” Hayes says.

When asked about a lack of qualified healthcare workers to actually be able to meet these ratios, Hayes says only a little more than half of licensed registered nurses in the state are actually at the bedside. “if we can continue to work to improve staffing and the conditions in the facilities, then folks will come back,” she says.

A spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Health tells News10NBC that it received the grouping of complaints sent by the CWA and department staff has already made contact to begin investigative efforts. 

Since the law was implemented, DOH says it has cited 11 hospitals for violations. Those hospitals were required to submit a corrective action plan and as this may be the subject of an ongoing investigation, it cannot comment further at this time.