Nurses charge NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn puts patients at risk by ignoring mandated staff/patient ratios
On hundreds of occasions in the last 18 months, patients at NYU Langone Hospital - Brooklyn have been put at risk by the understaffing of nurses and aides, including in the hospital’s Intensive and Critical Care units.
The Federation of Nurses/UFT over the past week has documented more than 30 violations of state law and publicly agreed-upon staffing levels with the New York State Department of Health. The violations filed with the state were drawn from over 2,000 staffing complaints documented by the union in the past 18 months.
"Patients at NYU's Brooklyn hospital have suffered because the hospital's leadership consistently violates the law that sets nurse-to-patient ratios necessary for safe and appropriate care," said Anne Goldman, head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, which represents roughly 1,000 nurses at NYU Langone Hospital- Brooklyn. "Our nurses are disgusted and demoralized because the hospital ignores its legal and ethical obligation to provide patients with a safe and therapeutic environment."
The violations filed with New York State document a clear risk to patients at the NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn.
On seven of 14 days in June, staffing levels in the hospital's critical care unit had one nurse managing more than the legal number of critical patients as allowed under the state's safe staffing law. The lapse is not an occasional occurrence but a recurring experience for staff and patients.
"NYU Langone Health and NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn have a dangerously warped set of priorities," said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. "They saw profits of $1.6 billion during a pandemic. They will spend millions to boost administrators’ salaries, but they won't take steps to ensure every unit has the proper staffing required by law, and that all patients get the care they are entitled to."
The understaffing at the hospital has led to an increase in patient falls, a rise in the number of “bedsore” complaints, and high nurse turnover, with one hospital unit losing nearly half its new hires within six months.
Lack of Nurses in Intensive Care
According to official complaints filed by the nurses, during a six-day stretch in June 2023 NYU Langone Hospital- Brooklyn's Medical Intensive Care unit failed to meet the state-mandated staffing levels of 1 nurse to 2 critically ill patients on four out of six days. In addition, during a two-week period in June 2023, the hospital’s Surgical/Neuro Intensive Care unit failed to meet the 1 nurse for 2 critically ill patients standard on four out of six days.
Among other units that have failed to meet the staffing guidelines in the hospital’s public agreement and UFT contract are the medical-surgical units, the stroke unit, the rehabilitation unit, the emergency department, and the mother-baby unit.
During a two-week stretch in July, one of the hospital's medical-surgical units had one Registered Nurse caring for anywhere from six to eight patients on nine of 14 days - violating the agreed-upon staffing ratio of 1 nurse for five patients according to the complaints reported to the union.
“This hospital is all about the money, not the patients and certainly not the nurses,” said a veteran Registered Nurse at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn. “They don’t hire and can’t keep nurses so the patient load is double or triple what is safe. They don’t hire nurses’ aides or enough people to answer the phones on the wards. The results are nurses regularly handling two and three times what is a safe number of patients. The results are not enough aides or clerical staff so patients aren’t taken to the bathroom regularly, aren’t turned regularly, and phones ring off the hook."
"Basic care is not being given," said a veteran Registered Nurse in one of NYU Langone Hospital- Brooklyn's Medical Surgical units. "We have 36 beds and two holding areas. We are supposed to have one nurse for every five patients. It is often now 1 for 8 patients. The hospital keeps saying 'help is on the way,' but it never arrives.”
Patient Care at Risk
NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn is on track in 2023 to have 495 falls by the end of the year, which is a 41% increase from 2022, according to quality metrics reported by the Brooklyn campus. Unless conditions change, the Brooklyn hospital is on track to have 22 of these falls result in serious injuries, a 49% increase from 2022, according to quality data reported by NYU Langone Hospital- Brooklyn.
Another indicator was a steady climb in the instances of severe pressure wounds, once called "bed sores," according to quality data reported by the hospital.
According to the records of the UFT Nurse chapter, the Brooklyn hospital hired 108 new nurses between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2023, while 71 nurses retired or resigned. The Med/Surgical division alone hired 47 nurses between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2023, and 22 have already resigned.
Violations of State Law
The state law mandating staffing levels in critical care units was passed in 2021. Hospitals that violate these standards and fail to submit or implement corrective action plans face penalties of up to $2,000 for each violation.
Subsequent violations - within the same 12 months that are deemed to be a serious threat to health and safety - can be penalized by up to $5,000, and the penalty could be increased to up to $10,000 if the violation directly results in serious physical harm to a patient.
Other staffing standards are jointly set by clinical staffing committees comprised of individual hospitals and their frontline staff. Failure to meet these standards results in the same penalties. In addition, staffing standards at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn are part of its contract with the Federation of Nurses/UFT and thus are enforceable through the arbitration process.
Registered nurses at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn administer medications, ensuring that dosages and medications are correct; they monitor reactions in patients after medications and treatments are provided; clean, dress, and bandage wounds, or assist with other interventions. They also inquire about previous diagnoses, current and past medications, allergies, family history, and more; monitor patients for changes in symptoms, vital signs, and other metrics, and keep a running record of patient treatments and reactions.
Roughly 1,000 Registered Nurses at NYU Langone Hospital- Brooklyn are members of the United Federation of Teachers. The chapter was formed in 1979 when nurses at what was then Lutheran Medical Center elected to join the UFT.