New York nurses press for higher staffing levels

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NEW YORK (AP) — About 700 nurses and supporters rallied Wednesday outside the offices of the Greater New York Hospital Association to press for higher staffing levels at hospitals.

The demonstration by the New York State Nurses Association was intended to rally support for a bill in the state legislature that would set minimum staffing levels for nurses.

"As nurses we know that safe staffing saves lives," said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the nurses' group. "If our hospitals are truly homes to heal, we cannot tolerate our patients suffering unnecessarily because of corporate greed."

Advocates say required staffing of one nurse for every two intensive-care patients and 1-to-4 ratios in regular medical-surgical units would improve patient care and reduce deaths.

But hospital administrators have said the ratios would cost them and nursing homes about $3 billion annually.

In a statement Wednesday, the hospital association said that "rigid" nurse staffing ratios would undermine patient care decisions and "deny hospitals the workforce flexibility they need to respond to emergencies."

The hospital group said it has "the deepest respect and admiration for our nurses and their outstanding work, and a long history of working with them to improve patient safety."

The nurses chanted and hoisted signs as they demonstrated outside the hospital association's Manhattan offices.

Karine Raymond, a nurse at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, said nurses there must sometimes care for 10 to 20 patients at a time.

"Do those people in the building think that is safe?" she asked. "Do they think that one person can safely take care of 20 patients?"

Dr. Frank Proscia, president of the Doctors Council, which represents doctors at public hospitals and other New York City facilities, said hospitals must invest in nurses.

"You take care of our patients," he said. "You do the lifting. You take care of the meds. You hold their hands. You deal with the families. You take their vitals. ... Nurses are the heart of health care."

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