NYC hospitals and healthcare workers reach multiple agreements on staffing levels

Trade union representatives and frontline medical workers said that in most hospitals they have reached an agreement with management on the appropriate ratios for some departments. In many cases, they agreed to a 2 to 1 ratio for intensive care units. Only in a few hospitals did management and clinical staff disagree.

“In some hospitals, we didn’t reach consensus at all,” said Nadine Williamson, head of nursing at 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “It’s kind of a morale drop when you work for six months to try and build staffing and you don’t.”

The New York State Nurses Association said most hospitals refuse to discuss rates in certain departments, especially those that care for patients who have had surgery.

Williamson said there was also widespread resistance to including behavioral health departments in staffing plans, though hospitals eventually relented.

“We had to fight unnecessarily to even turn it on,” she said.

Asked for comment, the Greater New York Hospital Association did not directly respond to these allegations.

“The workforce is diverse and dynamic,” said Lorraine Ryan, the association’s senior vice president of legal, regulatory and professional affairs, in a statement. “A wide range of variables were taken into account when developing the plans.”

Ryan noted that the law “preserves the role of leadership in the development of workforce plans, while at the same time giving frontline workers an active role and voice in the process.”

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Jessica Montanaro, a longtime intensive care nurse at Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital who served on the personnel committee, said she felt disrespectful during the planning process because hospital management refused to negotiate most of the time.

“We had a one-sided dialogue for several months,” Montanaro said.

She said the committee eventually made some progress after months of unions presenting their proposals and management listening but not saying anything, but then the hospital dropped it all at the last minute.

Mount Sinai Morningside’s final proposal for nursing staffing is similar to its current grid for registered nurse ratios, which Montanaro says is part of the NYSNA contract but is often violated.

The Montanaro Unit, a medical and surgical intensive care unit, has a capacity of 24 beds. She said the NYSNA contract required 11 nurses, but the department had only seven in recent days. The union representatives on the committee proposed a ratio of 11 registered nurses plus one nurse on duty, who is not normally assigned to a patient, for an average daily census of 20 patients.

“Mount Sinai Health System is committed to ensuring that staffing levels meet the needs of our patients while maintaining the financial sustainability of each of the system’s hospitals,” Dr. David Reich, the system’s executive director, wrote in a letter to the Department of Health. accompanies his staff lists. “Systemic hospitals will continue to change plans as additional resources become available.”

Mount Sinai was unable to respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

Hospitals must implement their staffing plans by January 1st. Hospitals found to be in violation of the law by the Department of Health will be required to submit a corrective action plan and may be subject to civil penalties.

This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crane’s business in New York.

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