Brooklyn VA nurses, veterans plan rally to protest staffing shortage after PACT Act

New York City-based Brooklyn VA Medical Center nurses and veterans are planning a rally Aug. 31 to protest staffing issues, a stalled nursing contract and inflexible scheduling. 

The staffing issue has become more of a concern since the passage of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which will require Veterans Affairs hospitals to care for any veterans who were exposed to anything toxic during their time of service. 

The rally has been organized by National Nurses United, the union that represents the nurses. 

"As a nurse who is a veteran and who cares for veterans, I understand how important readiness is, both in the field and in our medical facilities," Ann Marie Carlin, RN, a retired Navy captain and member of National Nurses United, said in an Aug. 29 news release from the union. "Just as we must have the appropriate number of military personnel to carry out a mission, so we must have the appropriate number of nurses to care for our sick. The passage of the PACT Act is a huge victory for our veteran community, and we applaud the work our veterans did to make it happen. Now, we have an obligation to make sure we work together so we can make good on the PACT Act's promise.”

According to a July 2022 VA Office of Inspector General report, 91 percent of VA hospitals are experiencing severe nurse shortages. Brooklyn VA nurses say that meeting the demands of the new nursing contract and having more flexible scheduling will allow for better retention and recruitment of staff. 

The contract was agreed upon in 2018, but has yet to be signed by VA Secretary Denis McDonough, according to the union. 

The VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, which Brooklyn VA Medical center is a part of, said it is working to address staffing issues. 

"The VA New York Harbor Healthcare System is meeting this nation-wide staffing shortage head-on by streamlining our recruitment for nursing professionals, which includes expediting the onboarding process," Michael Drake, public affairs officer for the health system, said in a statement shared with Becker's. "We are proud of our nurses for continuing to deliver exceptional care to our Veterans and very grateful for all that they do."

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