New York State Nurses Association report finds over 26,000 nurse understaffing complaints filed in 2019 and 2020

Nurses filed 26,219 complaints to hospital and nursing home managers about understaffing in 2019 and 2020, according to numbers released Wednesday by the New York State Nurses Association.

With multiple signatories on each complaint, there were 97,715 nurse signatures total, the data showed. NYSNA receives a copy when such “protests of assignment” are filed, and the numbers are tracked and reported annually, a spokesman said.

“Both before and during the pandemic, understaffing at our public hospitals has been severe and puts patients in jeopardy,” said Judith Cutchin, NYSNA board member and president of the union’s NYC Health + Hospitals/Mayorals executive council. “This condition in our hospitals continues today, and our nurses must care for far too many patients.”

Among the city’s public hospitals and agencies, there were 8,812 complaints about staffing, with 32,888 nurses signing.

NYSNA shared some of the protests of assignment, which described high patient-nurse ratios, inadequate time to provide basic or advanced care and dangerous working conditions.

The union also called for the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act to be passed this year by the state Legislature. It requires acute care facilities and nursing homes to implement certain patient-nurse ratios, set minimum staffing requirements and submit a plan to the state Health Department annually. The act had passed out of the health committee earlier this month and is moving ahead to the codes committee.

NYC Health + Hospitals made a commitment to improve staffing prior to 2019, which led the system to reach an agreement with NYSNA that standardized nurse-to-patient ratios, a spokeswoman said. She added that the public health system had taken steps to enhance and support its workforce by sourcing thousands of nurses to help meet demand. 

“We will continue to provide a healthy and safe environment for our nurses and patients,” she said.

The state Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment.

The New York State Nurses Association, founded in 1902, represents more than 42,000 members in the state. 


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