HOSPITALS PROPOSE IMPROVEMENTS TO STAFFING BUT UNIONS SAY IT STILL FALLS SHORT
On June 21, 2021, New York passed legislation requiring hospitals and their employees to negotiate staffing ratios through Clinical Staffing Committees (CSC). At Kaleida Health the CSC’s have been established at Buffalo General Medical Center, Oishei Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and DeGraff Medical Park since March 28th, 2022. (This law differs from staffing legislation passed for nursing homes and long-term care.)
The staffing committees have been meeting weekly since March and are comprised of Union Representation including: Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, ancillary staff like Medical Assistants, Patient Care Assistants, Certified Nursing Assistants, Certified Medical Assistants, Unit Secretaries along with other staff assisting with nursing or clinical tasks. Kaleida’s representation included administrators such as the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Nursing Officer, Patient Care Directors and Managers.
The primary responsibilities of the committee include forming specific staff to patient ratios on individual units. Proposals were exchanged between Management and the Unions after input was provided from front line Union Members. Considerations for typical patient volume, skill mix, acuity, patient safety, and lunch breaks were taken into account before Union proposals were exchanged.
Finally, after weeks of meetings and exchanging proposals and with few agreements between Labor and Management, the four sites have held their votes on June 6th, 2022. Ballots consisted of one vote for labor and one vote for management; so ties are common. Per the law, the tie-breaking vote is held by the CEO.
The outcome of the CSC votes held on June 6th are as follows:
Oishei Children’s Hospital has come to an agreement. Based on the previously established federal and state recommendations and guidelines that established minimum staffing at pediatric hospitals the CSC for Oishei was close to agreed upon ratios from the start. We successfully added additional Medical Assistants, Unit Secretaries and RN’s throughout the hospital.
BGMC, MFS, and DMH disagreed with Management about the safest patient ratios resulting in tie votes.
There are problems with the new law: only a few job titles are covered and enforcement of the established ratios is lacking. It is also important to note that the law is different from our bargaining team’s work on contract staffing language. For example: Catholic Health has contractual language to enforce staffing on all units for all job titles. The law just happens to also apply; contract language can be stronger than the law. Catholic Health’s strong contract at Mercy Hospital ensures that staffing is adequate and reduces loopholes in the law. It is vital that our upcoming contract has similar strong language to ensure proper staffing levels in all areas of the hospital for all job titles, and those not covered by the law.
We remain committed to achieving proper staffing levels in all areas and will continue to fight through the contract bargaining process. We would like to thank the members that provided their insight into each area and the work that the group has accomplished thus far. Moving forward, the CSC will continue to support their units even after our contract has been bargained to ensure enforcement and improvements.