Brooklyn nurses rally in support of Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act

Nurses and Elected officials rallied outside of New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital Tuesday morning.
Photo courtesy of NYSNA

Brooklyn nurses rallied outside New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in support of a new bill.

Elected officials and local community leaders joined the medical personnel outside of 506 6th Street on Feb. 23 in support of the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. This proposed legislation looks to ensure increased staffing in hospitals throughout the state, something many nurses feel has been a problem since before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, since the novel coronavirus crippled the city, many in the field feel understaffed emergency rooms place patients at risk and limits their care. 

Touting large signs reading “Safe RN Staffing Saves Lives” and “Patients Before Profits,” dozens of individuals assembled outside the emergency room entrance where a makeshift podium was erected, and several speakers discussed the importance of the issue.    

“New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist hospital has lost over 100 nurses while only hiring 16 since August. This at a time when Attorney General James highlighted short staffing as a reason for the increased number of COVID deaths in the nursing homes. This at a time when our nurses here are doing the best with so little and what do we get for the tireless work we do, we get a closure of the pediatric and psychiatric units, we get an ER that has been decimated by resignations and retirement due to poor working conditions,” Irving Campbell, RN, said.

Signs reading “Safe RN Staffing Saves Lives” were brandished by many at the rally. Photo courtesy of NYSNA

Campbell shared that nurses’ dedication to the field, spending hours putting their lives on the line to save others is being taken for granted, adding that the sheer number of patients places a dangerous and mentally draining burden on medical staff.

“Our ED is holding mental health patients for an extended period of time because our psych units remain closed and other NYP psych units have reached capacity to the point where we’re now sending them to neighboring hospitals outside the NYP system. It is imperative that the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act is passed because every patient who enters our facilities should receive the absolute best quality care despite their financial situation,” Campbell said to the crowd.

Attorney General Letitia James released a recent report that correlates staffing and positive patient outcomes. The report also stated that unsafe staffing numbers were significant factors in the causality of the high death tolls within nursing homes throughout the state.  

“This is the worst I’ve seen it in 20 years working at Methodist. As hard as nurses work and as much as we care, we cannot meet a safe standard of care if our administration refuses to staff enough qualified, trained nurses in every unit of the hospital,” said Diane Bonet, a pediatric nurse at NYP Brooklyn Methodist.

Bonet shared that she is unable to care for her pediatric patients due to her unit being converted to a mixed COVID Med-Surg unit.  Bonet says that the hospital administration is hiding behind the veil of COVID-19 to shutdown units deemed less profitable (such as pediatrics and psych) despite only having a handful of patients infected with the virus.  

 “They use the pandemic as an excuse to throw nurses into new specialties without the necessary training. They use COVID as an excuse to understaff throughout the whole hospital.  Nurses are professionals with specialty practices. Treating geriatric patients is not the same as treating pediatric patients. When we’ve asked for orientation or training, our CNO has said “use your brains,’” Bonet said.

Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral candidate Eric Adams, Councilman Brad Lander, Joan Rowley of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and many others joined in support of the New York State Nurses Association and Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, which is currently in committee and on its way to the floor for senate and assembly review.  

“When you love what you do, when you’re trained as a patient advocate, you should have a voice in safe patient care. Nurses should be able to make the hospital a better place! This should be a partnership where we all have the same goal—to provide safe, quality care to our community,” Bonet said. 

New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital responded to the rally, stating: “We greatly value our skilled and dedicated nurses who have done so much for our patients and the community during this pandemic and we will continue to support them. Despite unprecedented challenges, our heroic clinical teams continue to provide the safe and exceptional care NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital is known for.”