NYU Langone hospital violating state staffing ratios, union says

Members of the Federation of Nurses/UFT are accusing NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn in New York City of alleged understaffing violations that they say put patients at risk.

The union represents about 1,000 registered nurses at the hospital, according to an Aug. 24 news release. NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn is part of NYU Langone Health.

Union members allege the hospital has failed to adequately staff units in violation of state ratios for intensive care and critical care patients and the hospital's approved clinical staffing plan. The union has documented more than 30 alleged violations of state law and publicly agreed-upon staffing levels with the New York State Department of Health. 

"Patients at NYU's Brooklyn hospital have suffered because the hospital's leadership consistently violates the law that sets nurse-to-patient ratios necessary for safe and appropriate care," Anne Goldman, BSN, RN, head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, said in the release. "Our nurses are disgusted and demoralized because the hospital ignores its legal and ethical obligation to provide patients with a safe and therapeutic environment."

The union also alleges that understaffing at the hospital has led to an increase in patient falls, an increase in the number of "bedsore" complaints, and high nurse turnover, with one hospital unit losing nearly half its new hires within six months.

The union's allegations come after the New York State Department of Health's Public Health and Health Planning Council adopted a proposed regulation in June relating to staffing ratios in critical care and intensive care units.

The regulation is a result of rule-making necessitated by the addition of Section 2805-t to the Public Health Law under Chapter 155 of the Laws of 2021, state officials said. It is part of a state law signed in 2021 mandating hospitals establish clinical staffing committees. 

"There shall be a minimum of one registered professional nurse assigned to care for every two patients that an attending practitioner determines to require intensive or critical care," the regulation says, according to the New York Post

When asked for comment, the New York State Department of Health told Becker's it received a letter from the union about their concerns and is investigating the complaint, but the department does not comment on open investigations. 

NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn pushed back against the union's allegations, noting that it is the only Leapfrog Safety "A"-rated and Magnet-designated hospital in the borough of Brooklyn.

"We have a long-standing relationship with UFT, actively meeting with them on a regular basis," hospital spokesperson Steve Ritea said in a statement shared with Becker's. "Working with UFT, we were one of the first hospitals to establish staffing ratios in 2016 and continued to enhance them in 2018, before the current state requirements and before this was a common practice. We engaged in extensive mediation with UFT over several months in an effort to address their short-staffing grievances. When UFT leadership was not satisfied, they stepped away from the mediation process and instead chose to make their case in the media. Now they are acting irresponsibly by providing an inaccurate portrait of patient care, completely misrepresenting our institution and our valued nurses who provide quality care."

Mr. Ritea also said that the union's staffing numbers "do not reflect our current figures. In fact, we continue to grow our nursing workforce, outpacing turnover." Additionally, he called the allegation that the hospital is not following existing regulations "patently false" and said the number of falls, including those with injuries as well as pressure injuries projected in Brooklyn, "are actually a fraction of what UFT alleges and has decreased from prior years."

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