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Quality hospital care

New York Teacher

If you enter a store that has long lines to check out your purchases, it’s a mild annoyance that may affect your decision about where to shop next time.

But when a hospital is short-staffed, it goes beyond inconvenience. It’s a matter of life and death.

Research shows once a hospital nurse has more than five patients to oversee and monitor, patient outcomes decline. The number of bedsores, infections, medical errors and even fatalities increase. Who wants to be patient No. 6?

Every patient deserves quality care provided by a nursing staff that is not stretched thin. No one deserves to be put at risk at a vulnerable time because a hospital has failed to hire enough nurses. One nurse at a Bronx hospital lamented to a newspaper last spring that the care patients receive is sometimes closer to “drive-by nursing.”

That’s why the Federation of Nurses/UFT has fought to negotiate contracts that include safe staffing ratios. We are proud that our 2018 contract with NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn included an improved staffing ratio of 5 to 1 on medical-surgical units — making it the only hospital in Brooklyn with that patient-to-nurse ratio.

But that’s just the beginning. Our goal is a legislative remedy so all hospitals in New York State must hire enough nurses. Safe staffing levels should not be up for grabs every time a contract is renewed.

So far, California is the only state that has legislated staffing ratios for its hospitals. The Federation of Nurses/UFT is lobbying for New York State legislation that would be similar to California’s law. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has introduced a bill that set a minimum bar for safe staffing levels for nurses in hospitals and nursing homes.

Safe staffing enables patients to get the care they deserve when hospitalized — and it must be locked in by legislation.

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