Nurses rally at Statehouse to call for better working conditions, more staff

Nurses, health care workers and activists say staffing issues due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic are continuing to plague the industry.

Matt Trapani

May 11, 2023, 5:06 PM

Updated 409 days ago

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The health care workers who were on the front line for the COVID-19 pandemic say that they faced one thing before, during and after the pandemic – staffing shortages. These workers are now warning officials that the state health care system could collapse because of overworked and understaffed hospitals.
The nurses held a rally outside of the State House in Trenton on Thursday. Nurses, health care workers and advocates are demanding that lawmakers pass a new law that would set minimum staffing levels at hospitals and health care facilities in New Jersey.
“When you get to a hospital bed they tell you there's a little button on your bed. And that [button] doesn't call the doctor, or the hospital administrator, or somebody on Wall Street. That [button] calls the nurse,” said Maura Collingsgru with New Jersey Citizen Action.
The bill would mandate one nurse or health care worker per two patients in critical care settings and one per five patients in behavioral health settings.
“We have a retention problem. We cannot keep nurses at the bedside,” said HPAE President Debbie White.
White says that this staffing problem did not start with the pandemic. Following the arrival of the coronavirus, nurses and health care workers began leaving the profession in droves.
Advocates say that this contributed to shortages that were already there.
“If nurses can't work safely, in their view, they feel discouraged. And they don't want to stay in their profession because they put themselves at risk, put their patients at risk,” says Democratic state Sen. Joe Vitale.
Vitale said he's been trying to get this bill passed for 20 years, with strong opposition.
“The state Legislature and the governor have it in their power to make staffing ratios a reality. And guess what? Employers will figure it out,” said Alice Barden, with HPAE Local 5004.
It's been nearly 18 months since this bill was introduced and it's still under legal review. A similar law is already on the books in California.


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