On May 6, 2016 six rallies were held throughout the state of New York by the Nurses Association to gain support for a bill that will create a standard for nurse to patient ratios. The bill, called Safe Staffing for Quality Care, calls for higher levels of staff at hospitals in an effort to provide better care for patients. The bill was introduced to the Assembly by Aileen Gunther, Assemblywoman of Forestburgh in Orange County. Gunther stated that the issue of safe staffing is very important to her as she is the only registered nurse in the Assembly; she also speaks with nurses who believe this bill would have a significant positive impact by improving patient outcomes, reducing nurse injuries and saving hospitals money.
If the bill were put into legislation, hospitals and nursing homes would be required to have nurse-to-patient ratios, develop minimum staffing requirements and staffing plans that would be submitted to the state Department of Health yearly as a pre-requisite for license renewal. Nurses will have the option of refusing work if proper staffing were not in place. The nurse to patient ratio would vary depending on each situation, for example, one nurse to an operating room might be sufficient but one nurse to six patients might be sufficient in a well-baby nursing unit. Public access to staffing plans would also be required and civil penalties will be given if the plans are violated.
Lawmakers believe this measure is necessary to ensure that nurses are not overworked and patients are being cared for properly. Jill Furillo, Executive Director of the Nurses Association, stated the level of patient care suffers when nurses are forced to take on a dozen or more patients at once. She believes the passing of this bill will have a positive outcome and better care will be provided for patients. Senator David Calucci of Clarkstown in Rockland County stated that keeping the ratio of nurse-to-patient at a safe level will help nurses continue to save lives. Twenty municipalities have confirmed they will call on legislature to pass the bill.